Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 195, Issue 2, pp 273–283 | Cite as

Eye–hand coordination in a sequential target contact task

  • Miles C. Bowman
  • Roland S. Johannson
  • John Randall FlanaganEmail author
Research Article


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.


Eye–hand coordination Object manipulation Visually guided Reaching Sensorimotor control 



This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. MCB was supported by a scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We thank Martin York for technical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miles C. Bowman
    • 1
  • Roland S. Johannson
    • 2
  • John Randall Flanagan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre for Neuroscience Studies and Department of PsychologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Section for Physiology, Department of Integrative Medical BiologyUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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