Target Displacements during Eye Blinks Trigger Automatic Recalibration of Gaze Direction.
ABSTRACT: Eye blinks cause disruptions to visual input and are accompanied by rotations of the eyeball . Like every motor action, these eye movements are subject to noise and introduce instabilities in gaze direction across blinks . Accumulating errors across repeated blinks would be debilitating for visual performance. Here, we show that the oculomotor system constantly recalibrates gaze direction during blinks to counteract gaze instability. Observers were instructed to fixate a visual target while gaze direction was recorded and blinks were detected in real time. With every spontaneous blink-while eyelids were closed-the target was displaced laterally by 0.5° (or 1.0°). Most observers reported being unaware of displacements during blinks. After adapting for ?35 blinks, gaze positions after blinks showed significant biases toward the new target position. Automatic eye movements accompanied each blink, and an aftereffect persisted for a few blinks after target displacements were eliminated. No adaptive gaze shift occurred when blinks were simulated with shutter glasses at random time points or actively triggered by observers, or when target displacements were masked by a distracting stimulus. Visual signals during blinks are suppressed by inhibitory mechanisms [3-6], so that small changes across blinks are generally not noticed [7, 8]. Additionally, target displacements during blinks can trigger automatic gaze recalibration, similar to the well-known saccadic adaptation effect [9-11]. This novel mechanism might be specific to the maintenance of gaze direction across blinks or might depend on a more general oculomotor recalibration mechanism adapting gaze position during intrinsically generated disruptions to visual input.
Project description:In face-to-face communication, recurring intervals of mutual gaze allow listeners to provide speakers with visual feedback (e.g. nodding). Here, we investigate the potential feedback function of one of the subtlest of human movements-eye blinking. While blinking tends to be subliminal, the significance of mutual gaze in human interaction raises the question whether the interruption of mutual gaze through blinking may also be communicative. To answer this question, we developed a novel, virtual reality-based experimental paradigm, which enabled us to selectively manipulate blinking in a virtual listener, creating small differences in blink duration resulting in 'short' (208 ms) and 'long' (607 ms) blinks. We found that speakers unconsciously took into account the subtle differences in listeners' blink duration, producing substantially shorter answers in response to long listener blinks. Our findings suggest that, in addition to physiological, perceptual and cognitive functions, listener blinks are also perceived as communicative signals, directly influencing speakers' communicative behavior in face-to-face communication. More generally, these findings may be interpreted as shedding new light on the evolutionary origins of mental-state signaling, which is a crucial ingredient for achieving mutual understanding in everyday social interaction.
Project description:Eye movements are inhibited prior to the onset of temporally-predictable visual targets. This oculomotor inhibition effect could be considered a marker for the formation of temporal expectations and the allocation of temporal attention in the visual domain. Here we show that eye movements are also inhibited before predictable auditory targets. In two experiments, we manipulate the period between a cue and an auditory target to be either predictable or unpredictable. The findings show that although there is no perceptual gain from avoiding gaze-shifts in this procedure, saccades and blinks are inhibited prior to predictable relative to unpredictable auditory targets. These findings show that oculomotor inhibition occurs prior to auditory targets. This link between auditory expectation and oculomotor behavior reveals a multimodal perception action coupling, which has a central role in temporal expectations.
Project description:A key hallmark of visual perceptual awareness is robustness to instabilities arising from unnoticeable eye and eyelid movements. In previous human intracranial (iEEG) work (Golan et al., 2016) we found that excitatory broadband high-frequency activity transients, driven by eye blinks, are suppressed in higher-level but not early visual cortex. Here, we utilized the broad anatomical coverage of iEEG recordings in 12 eye-tracked neurosurgical patients to test whether a similar stabilizing mechanism operates following small saccades. We compared saccades (1.3°-3.7°) initiated during inspection of large individual visual objects with similarly-sized external stimulus displacements. Early visual cortex sites responded with positive transients to both conditions. In contrast, in both dorsal and ventral higher-level sites the response to saccades (but not to external displacements) was suppressed. These findings indicate that early visual cortex is highly unstable compared to higher-level visual regions which apparently constitute the main target of stabilizing extra-retinal oculomotor influences.
Project description:To detect and quantify eye blinks during 24-hour intraocular pressure (IOP) monitoring with a contact lens sensor (CLS).A total of 249 recordings of 24-hour IOP patterns from 202 participants using a CLS were included. Software was developed to automatically detect eye blinks, and wake and sleep periods. The blink detection method was based on detection of CLS signal peaks greater than a threshold proportional to the signal amplitude. Three methods for automated detection of the sleep and wake periods were evaluated. These relied on blink detection and subsequent comparison of the local signal amplitude with a threshold proportional to the mean signal amplitude. These methods were compared to manual sleep/wake verification. In a pilot, simultaneous video recording of 10 subjects was performed to compare the software to observer-measured blink rates.Mean (SD) age of participants was 57.4 ± 16.5 years (males, 49.5%). There was excellent agreement between software-detected number of blinks and visually measured blinks for both observers (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC], 0.97 for observer 1; ICC, 0.98 for observer 2). The CLS measured a mean blink frequency of 29.8 ± 15.4 blinks/min, a blink duration of 0.26 ± 0.21 seconds and an interblink interval of 1.91 ± 2.03 seconds. The best method for identifying sleep periods had an accuracy of 95.2 ± 0.5%.Automated analysis of CLS 24-hour IOP recordings can accurately quantify eye blinks, and identify sleep and wake periods.This study sheds new light on the potential importance of eye blinks in glaucoma and may contribute to improved understanding of circadian IOP characteristics.
Project description:We blink more often than required for maintaining the corneal tear film. Whether there are perceptual or cognitive consequences of blinks that may justify their high frequency is unclear. Previous findings showed that blinks may indicate switches between large-scale cortical networks, such as dorsal attention and default-mode networks. Thus, blinks may trigger a refresh of visual attention. Yet, this has so far not been confirmed behaviorally. Here, we tested the effect of blinks on visual performance in a series of rapid serial visual presentation tasks. In Experiment 1, participants had to identify a target digit embedded in a random stream of letter distractors, presented foveally for 60 ms each. Participants blinked once during the presentation stream. In a separate condition, blinks were simulated by shutter glasses. Detection performance was enhanced (up to 13% point increase in accuracy) for targets appearing up to 300 ms after eye blinks. Performance boosts were stronger for voluntary blinks than artificial blinks. This performance boost was also replicated with more naturalistic stimuli (Experiment 2). We conclude that eye blinks lead to attentional benefits for object recognition in the period after reopening of the eyelids and may be used strategically for temporarily boosting visual performance.
Project description:It is known that TMS can induce blinking, but it is unknown to what extent and at what time TMS-induced blinking can cover the pupil. We applied single-pulse TMS with a leftward and rightward monophasic current through a round coil over the occipital pole in 8 healthy subjects, using high-speed video to monitor left or right eye with a spatial resolution of 0.1 mm and a temporal resolution of 2 ms. We plotted eyelid position relative to upper and lower pupil borders as a function of time after TMS for each subject and current direction. We found 2 blinks in every subject, an isolated late blink with one current direction and a superimposed early and late blink with the other current direction, in accordance with our previously reported association between a leftward and rightward lower coil rim current and an early blink in right and left eye, respectively. Blink extent varied, but 4 subjects showed total pupil covering with both current directions. Blink timing varied, but pupil covering was initiated as early as 32 ms after TMS and pupil uncovering was completed as late as 200 ms after TMS. We found no saccades. We conclude that TMS can cause an important optical disruption of visual perception.
Project description:How do we know where we are looking? A frequent assumption is that the subjective experience of our direction of gaze is assigned to the location in the world that falls on our fovea. However, we find that observers can shift their subjective direction of gaze among different nonfoveal points in an afterimage. Observers were asked to look directly at different corners of a diamond-shaped afterimage. When the requested corner was 3.5° in the periphery, the observer often reported that the image moved away in the direction of the attempted gaze shift. However, when the corner was at 1.75° eccentricity, most reported successfully fixating at the point. Eye-tracking data revealed systematic drift during the subjective fixations on peripheral locations. For example, when observers reported looking directly at a point above the fovea, their eyes were often drifting steadily upwards. We then asked observers to make a saccade from a subjectively fixated, nonfoveal point to another point in the afterimage, 7° directly below their fovea. The observers consistently reported making appropriately diagonal saccades, but the eye movement traces only occasionally followed the perceived oblique direction. These results suggest that the perceived direction of gaze can be assigned flexibly to an attended point near the fovea. This may be how the visual world acquires its stability during fixation of an object, despite the drifts and microsaccades that are normal characteristics of visual fixation.
Project description:We define gaze agency as the awareness of the causal effect of one's own eye movements in gaze-contingent environments, which might soon become a widespread reality with the diffusion of gaze-operated devices. Here we propose a method for measuring gaze agency based on self-monitoring propensity and sensitivity. In one task, naïf observers watched bouncing balls on a computer monitor with the goal of discovering the cause of concurrently presented beeps, which were generated in real-time by their saccades or by other events (Discovery Task). We manipulated observers' self-awareness by pre-exposing them to a condition in which beeps depended on gaze direction or by focusing their attention to their own eyes. These manipulations increased propensity to agency discovery. In a second task, which served to monitor agency sensitivity at the sensori-motor level, observers were explicitly asked to detect gaze agency (Detection Task). Both tasks turned out to be well suited to measure both increases and decreases of gaze agency. We did not find evident oculomotor correlates of agency discovery or detection. A strength of our approach is that it probes self-monitoring propensity-difficult to evaluate with traditional tasks based on bodily agency. In addition to putting a lens on this novel cognitive function, measuring gaze agency could reveal subtle self-awareness deficits in pathological conditions and during development.
Project description:Involuntary eye movements during fixation of gaze are typically transiently inhibited following stimulus onset. This oculomotor inhibition (OMI), which includes microsaccades and spontaneous eye blinks, is modulated by stimulus saliency and anticipation, but it is currently unknown whether it is sensitive to familiarity. To investigate this, we measured the OMI while observers passively viewed a slideshow of one familiar and 7 unfamiliar facial images presented briefly at 1 Hz in random order. Since the initial experiments indicated that OMI was occasionally insensitive to familiarity when the facial images were highly visible, and to prevent top-down strategies and potential biases, we limited visibility by backward masking making the faces barely visible or at the fringe of awareness. Under these conditions, we found prolonged inhibition of both microsaccades and eye-blinks, as well as earlier onset of microsaccade inhibition with familiarity. These findings demonstrate, for the first time, the sensitivity of OMI to familiarity. Because this is based on involuntary eye movements and can be measured on the fringe of awareness and in passive viewing, our results provide direct evidence that OMI can be used as a novel physiological measure for studying hidden memories with potential implications for health, legal, and security purposes.
Project description:Strabismus is a prevalent impairment of binocular alignment that is associated with a spectrum of perceptual deficits and social disadvantages. Current treatments for strabismus involve ocular alignment through surgical or optical methods and may include vision therapy exercises. In the present study, we explore the potential of real-time dichoptic visual feedback that may be used to quantify and manipulate interocular alignment. A gaze-contingent ring was presented independently to each eye of 11 normally-sighted observers as they fixated a target dot presented only to their dominant eye. Their task was to center the rings within 2° of the target for at least 1 s, with feedback provided by the sizes of the rings. By offsetting the ring in the non-dominant eye temporally or nasally, this task required convergence or divergence, respectively, of the non-dominant eye. Eight of 11 observers attained 5° asymmetric convergence and 3 of 11 attained 3° asymmetric divergence. The results suggest that real-time gaze-contingent feedback may be used to quantify and transiently simulate strabismus and holds promise as a method to augment existing therapies for oculomotor alignment disorders.