Eye movement targets are released from visual crowding.


Harrison, W.J., Mattingley, J.B. & Remington, R.W. Eye movement targets are released from visual crowding. Journal of Neuroscience 33, 2927–2933 (2013). Copy at https://j.mp/2p2wo6Q


Our ability to recognize objects in peripheral vision is impaired when other objects are nearby (Bouma, 1970). This phenomenon, known as crowding, is often linked to interactions in early visual processing that depend primarily on the retinal position of visual stimuli (Pelli, 2008; Pelli and Tillman, 2008). Here we tested a new account that suggests crowding is influenced by spatial information derived from an extraretinal signal involved in eye movement preparation. We had human observers execute eye movements to crowded targets and measured their ability to identify those targets just before the eyes began to move. Beginning ∼50 ms before a saccade toward a crowded object, we found that not only was there a dramatic reduction in the magnitude of crowding, but the spatial area within which crowding occurred was almost halved. These changes in crowding occurred despite no change in the retinal position of target or flanking stimuli. Contrary to the notion that crowding depends on retinal signals alone, our findings reveal an important role for eye movement signals. Eye movement preparation effectively enhances object discrimination in peripheral vision at the goal of the intended saccade. These presaccadic changes may enable enhanced recognition of visual objects in the periphery during active search of visually cluttered environments.


Last updated on 01/28/2014