January 21, 2021

Dependence of perceptual saccadic suppression on peri-saccadic image flow properties and luminance contrast polarity

Across saccades, perceptual detectability of brief visual stimuli is strongly diminished. We recently observed that this perceptual suppression phenomenon is jumpstarted in the retina, suggesting that the phenomenon might be significantly more visual in nature than normally acknowledged. Here, we explicitly compared saccadic suppression strength when saccades were made across a uniform image of constant luminance versus when saccades were made across image patches of different luminance, width, and trans-saccadic luminance polarity. We measured perceptual contrast thresholds of human subjects for brief peri-saccadic flashes of positive (luminance increments) or negative (luminance decrements) polarity. Perceptual thresholds were >6-7 times higher when saccades translated a luminance stripe or edge across the retina than when saccades were made over a completely uniform image patch. Critically, both background luminance and flash luminance polarity relative to the background strongly modulated peri-saccadic contrast thresholds. In addition, all of these very same visual dependencies also occurred in the absence of any saccades, but with qualitatively similar rapid translations of image patches across the retina. Our results support the notion that perceptual saccadic suppression may be fundamentally a visual phenomenon, and they motivate neurophysiological and theoretical investigations on the role of saccadic eye movement commands in modulating its properties.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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