, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 263-267
Date: 02 Oct 2004

Verbal instructions and top-down saccade control

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Few studies have addressed the interaction between instruction content and saccadic eye movement control. To assess the impact of instructions on top-down control, we instructed 20 healthy volunteers to deliberately delay saccade triggering, to make inaccurate saccades or to redirect saccades—i.e. to glimpse towards and then immediately opposite to the target. Regular pro- and antisaccade tasks were used for comparison. Bottom-up visual input remained unchanged and was a gap paradigm for all instructions. In the inaccuracy and delay tasks, both latencies and accuracies were detrimentally impaired by either type of instruction and the variability of latency and accuracy was increased. The intersaccadic interval (ISI) required to correct erroneous antisaccades was shorter than the ISI for instructed direction changes in the redirection task. The word-by-word instruction content interferes with top-down saccade control. Top-down control is a time consuming process, which may override bottom-up processing only during a limited time period. It is questionable whether parallel processing is possible in top-down control, since the long ISI for instructed direction changes suggests sequential planning.