Experimental brain research vol:201 issue:3 pages:489-498
When we fixate an object, our eyes are not entirely still, but undergo small displacements such as microsaccades. Here, we investigate whether these microsaccades are sensitive to the preparatory processes involved in programming a saccade. We show that the frequency of microsaccades depends in a specific manner on the intention where to move the eyes (towards a target location or away from it), when to move (immediately after the onset of the target or after a delay), and what type of cue is followed (a peripheral onset or a centrally presented symbolic cue). In particular, in the preparatory interval before and early after target onset, more microsaccades were found when a delayed saccade towards a peripheral target was prepared than when a saccade away was programmed. However, no such difference in the frequency of microsaccades was observed when saccades were initiated immediately after the onset of the target or when the saccades were programmed on the basis of a centrally presented arrow cue. The results are discussed in the context of the neural correlates of response preparation, known as preparatory set.