Jorge Otero-Millan, Macknik Lance Optican & Martinez-Conde Stephen L
When we explore a static visual scene, our eyes move in a sequence of fast eye movements called saccades, which are separated by fixation periods of relative eye stability. Based on uncertain sensory and cognitive inputs, the oculomotor system must decide, at every moment, whether to initiate a saccade or remain in the fixation state. Even when we attempt to maintain our gaze on a small spot, small saccades, called microsaccades, intrude on fixation once or twice per second. Because microsaccades occur at the boundary of the decision to maintain fixation versus starting a saccade, they offer a unique opportunity to study the mechanisms that control saccadic triggering. Abnormal saccadic intrusions can occur during attempted fixation in patients with neurodegenerative disorders. We have implemented a model of the triggering mechanism of saccades, based on known anatomy and physiology, that successfully simulates the generation of saccades of any size—including microsaccades in healthy observers, and the saccadic intrusions that interrupt attempted fixation in parkinsonian patients. The model suggests that noisy neuronal activity in the Superior Colliculus controls the state of a mutually inhibitory network in the brain stem formed by burst neurons and omnipause neurons. When the neuronal activity is centered at the rostral pole the system remains at a state of fixation. When activity is perturbed away from this center, a saccade is triggered. This perturbation can be produced either by the intent to move one’s gaze or by random fluctuations in activity.
Otero-Millan, Lance Optican, Stephen L & Martinez-Conde (2018) Modeling the Triggering of Saccades, Microsaccades, and Saccadic Intrusions.. Front Neurol. 2018 May 28;9:346.