, Volume 195, Issue 2, pp 273-283
Date: 09 Apr 2009

Eye–hand coordination in a sequential target contact task

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Abstract

Most object manipulation tasks involve a series of actions demarcated by mechanical contact events, and gaze is typically directed to the locations of these events as the task unfolds. Here, we examined the timing of gaze shifts relative to hand movements in a task in which participants used a handle to contact sequentially five virtual objects located in a horizontal plane. This task was performed both with and without visual feedback of the handle position. We were primarily interested in whether gaze shifts, which in our task shifted from a given object to the next about 100 ms after contact, were predictive or triggered by tactile feedback related to contact. To examine this issue, we included occasional catch contacts where forces simulating contact between the handle and object were removed. In most cases, removing force did not alter the timing of gaze shifts irrespective of whether or not vision of handle position was present. However, in about 30% of the catch contacts, gaze shifts were delayed. This percentage corresponded to the fraction of contacts with force feedback in which gaze shifted more than 130 ms after contact. We conclude that gaze shifts are predictively controlled but timed so that the hand actions around the time of contact are captured in central vision. Furthermore, a mismatch between the expected and actual tactile information related to the contact can lead to a reorganization of gaze behavior for gaze shifts executed greater than 130 ms after a contact event.

An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-010-2526-6.