Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 208, Issue 3, pp 385–397

Is the relationship of prosaccade reaction times and antisaccade errors mediated by working memory?

  • Trevor J. Crawford
  • Elisabeth Parker
  • Ivonne Solis-Trapala
  • Jenny Mayes
Research Article


The mechanisms that control eye movements in the antisaccade task are not fully understood. One influential theory claims that the generation of antisaccades is dependent on the capacity of working memory. Previous research also suggests that antisaccades are influenced by the relative processing speeds of the exogenous and endogenous saccadic pathways. However, the relationship between these factors is unclear, in particular whether or not the effect of the relative speed of the pro and antisaccade pathways is mediated by working memory. The present study contrasted the performance of healthy individuals with high and low working memory in the antisaccade and prosaccade tasks. Path analyses revealed that antisaccade errors were strongly predicted by the mean reaction times of prosaccades and that this relationship was not mediated by differences in working memory. These data suggest that antisaccade errors are directly related to the speed of saccadic programming. These findings are discussed in terms of a race competition model of antisaccade control.


Antisaccade Attention Eye movements Individual differences Inhibitory control Latency Prosaccade Reaction time Saccade Working memory 


  1. Allport DA, Styles E, Hsieh S (1994) Switching intentional set: exploring the dynamic control of tasks. In: Umilta C, Moscovitch M (eds) Attention and performance XV: conscious and nonconscious information processing. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 421–452Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley A (1986) Working Memory. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Baddeley AD, Hitch G (1974) Working memory. In: The psychology of learning and motivation, vol 8. Academic Press, New York, pp 47–89Google Scholar
  4. Baddeley AD, Hitch GJ (1994) Developments in the concept of working memory. Neuropsychology 8:485–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bleckley MK, Durso FT, Crutchfield JM, Engle RW, Khanna MM (2003) Individual differences in working memory capacity predict visual attention allocation. Psychon Bull Rev 10:884–889PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Boch R, Fischer B (1986) Further observations on the occurrence of express-saccades in the monkey. Exp Brain Res 63:487–494CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Broerse A, Crawford TJ, den Boer JA (2001) Parsing cognition in schizophrenia using saccadic eye movements: a selective overview. Neuropsychologia 39:742–756CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Carpenter RHS, Williams MLL (1995) Neural computation of log likelihood in the control of saccadic eye movements. Nature 377:59–62CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Conway AR, Engle RW (1996) Individual differences in working memory capacity: more evidence for a general capacity theory. Memory 4:577–590CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Conway ARA, Jarrold C, Kane MJ, Miyake A, Towse JN (2007) Variation in working memory. University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Cowan N (1995) Attention and memory: an integrated framework. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Cowan N (1998) Visual and auditory working memory capacity. Trends Cogn Sci 2:77–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cowan N (2001) The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behav Brain Sci 24:97–185Google Scholar
  14. Cox DR (2007) On a generalization of a result of W. G. Cochran. Biometrika 94:755–759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crawford TJ, Muller HJ (1992) Spatial and temporal effects of spatial attention on human saccadic eye movements. Vision Res 32:293–304CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Crawford TJ, Bennett D, Lekwuwa G, Shaunak S, Deakin JFW (2002) Cognition and the inhibitory control of saccades in schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Prog Brain Res 140:449–466Google Scholar
  17. Crawford TJ, Kean M, Klein RM, Hamm JP (2006) The effects of illusory line motion on incongruent saccades: implications for saccadic eye movements and visual attention. Exp Brain Res 173:498–506CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Daneman M, Capenter PA (1980) Individual differences in working memory and reading. J Verbal Learn Verbal Behav 19:450–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Deubel H, Schneider WX (1996) Saccade target selection and object recognition: evidence for a common attentional mechanism. Vision Res 36:1827–1837CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Dorris MC, Munoz DP (1995) A neural correlate for the gap effect on saccadic reaction times in monkey. J Neurophysiol 73:2558–2562PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Dreisbach G, Goschke T, Haider H (2006) Implicit task sets in task switching? J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 32:1221–1233CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Edwards DE (2000) Introduction to graphical modeling. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Eenshuistra RM, Ridderinkhof KR, Molen MWvd (2004) Age-related changes in antisaccade task performance: inhibitory control or working-memory engagement? Brain Cogn 56:177–188PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Eenshuistra RM, Richard Ridderinkhof K, Weidema MA, van der Molen MW (2007) Developmental changes in oculomotor control and working-memory efficiency. Acta Psychol 124:139–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Engle RW (2002) Working memory capacity as executive attention. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 11:19–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Everling S, Fischer B (1998) The antisaccade: a review of basic research and clinical studies. Neuropsychologia 36:885–899CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Everling S, Munoz DP (2000) Neuronal correlates for preparatory set associated with pro-saccades and anti-saccades in the primate frontal eye field. J Neurosci 20:387–400PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Everling S, Dorris MC, Munoz DP (1998) Reflex suppression in the anti-saccade task is dependent on prestimulus neural processes. J Neurophysiol 80:1584–1589PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Fischer B (1987) The preparation of visually guided saccades. Rev Physiol Biochem Pharmacol 106:1–35CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Fischer B, Ramsperger E (1986) Human express saccades: effects of randomization and daily practice. Exp Brain Res 64:569–578CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Fischer B, Weber H (1992) Characteristics of “anti” saccades in man. Exp Brain Res 89:415–424CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Fischer B, Weber H (1996) Effects of precues on error rate and reaction times of antisaccades in human subjects. Exp Brain Res 109:507–512CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Forbes K, Klein RM (1996) The magnitude of the fixation offset effect with endogenously and exogenously controlled saccades. J Cogn Neurosci 8:344–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Friedman NP, Miyake A (2004) The reading span test and its predictive power for reading comprehension. J Mem Lang 31:136–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hallett PE (1978) Primary and secondary saccades to goals defined by instructions. Vision Res 18:1279–1296CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Hallett PE, Adams BD (1980) The predictability of saccadic latency in a novel voluntary oculomotor task. Vision Res 20:329–339CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Hasher L, Zacks RT, Gordon HB (1988) Working memory, comprehension, and aging: a review and a new view. In: Psychology of learning and motivation, vol 22. Academic Press, pp 193–225Google Scholar
  38. Hoffman JE, Subramaniam B (1995) The role of visual attention in saccadic eye movements. Percept Psychophys 57:787PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Hutton SB, Ettinger U (2006) The antisaccade task as a research tool in psychopathology: a critical review. Psychophysiology 43:302–313CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Ishihara S (1983) Ishihara’s tests for colour blindness. Kanehara, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  41. Kane MJ, Bleckley MK, Conway ARA, Engle RW (2001) A controlled-attention view of working-memory capacity. J Exp Psychol Gen 130:169–183CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Kimberg DY, Farah MJ (2000) Is there an inhibitory module in the prefrontal cortex? Working memory and the mechanisms underlying cognitive control. In: Monsell S, Driver J (eds) Attention and performance, vol XVIII. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  43. Kristjánsson A (2007) Saccade landing point selection and the competition account of pro- and antisaccade generation: the involvement of visual attention—a review. Scand J Psychol 48:97–113CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Kristjánsson A, Chen Y, Nakayama K (2001) Less attention is more in the preparation of antisaccades, but not prosaccades. Nat Neurosci 4:1037–1042CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Kristjánsson A, Vandenbroucke MW, Driver J (2004) When pros become cons for anti-versus prosaccades: factors with opposite or common effects on different saccade types. Exp Brain Res 155:231–244CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Lauritzen SL (1996) Graphical models. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  47. Lawrence BM, Myerson J, Oonk HM, Abrams RA (2001) The effects of eye and limb eye movements on working memory. Memory 9:433–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Massen C (2004) Parallel programming of exogenous and endogenous components in the antisaccade task. Q J Exp Psychol A 57:475–498CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Michel F, Anderson M (2009) Using the antisaccade task to investigate the relationship between the development of inhibition and the development of intelligence. Dev Sci 12:272–288CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Miller GA (1956) The magical number seven plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychol Rev 63:81–97Google Scholar
  51. Miller EK, Cohen JD (2001) An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function. Annu Rev Neurosci 24:167–202CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Mitchell JP, Macrae CN, Gilchrist ID (2002) Working memory and the suppression of reflexive saccades. J Cogn Neurosci 14:95–103CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Mokler A, Fischer B (1999) The recognition and correction of involuntary prosaccades in an antisaccade task. Exp Brain Res 125:511–516CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Munoz DP, Everling S (2004) Look away: the anti-saccade task and the voluntary control of eye movement. Nat Rev Neurosci 5:218–228CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Munoz DP, Wurtz RH (1992) Role of the rostral superior colliculus in active visual fixation and execution of express saccades. J Neurophysiol 67:1000–1002PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Nieuwenhuis S, Broerse A, Nielen MM, de Jong R (2004) A goal activation approach to the study of executive function: an application to antisaccade tasks. Brain Cogn 56:198–214CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Nyffeler T, Muri RM, Bucher-Ottiger Y, Pierrot-Deseilligny C, Gaymard G, Rivaud-Pechoux S (2007) Inhibitory control of the human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during the anti-saccade paradigm: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study. Eur J Neurosci 26:1381–1385CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. O’Reilly RC, Braver TS, Cohen JD (1999) A biologically-based computational model of working memory. In: Miyake A, Shah P (eds) Models of working memory: mechanisms of active maintenance and executive control. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. Olk B, Kingstone A (2003) Why are antisaccades slower than prosaccades? A novel finding using a new paradigm. NeuroReport 144:151–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pashler H (2000) Task switching and multitask performance. In: Monsell S, Driver J (eds) Attention and performance: control of cognitive processes, vol XVIII. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 277–307Google Scholar
  61. Posner MI, Cohen Y, Rafal RD (1982) Neural systems control of spatial orienting. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 298:187–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pratt J, Trottier L (2005) Pro-saccades and anti-saccades to onset and offset targets. Vision Res 45:765–774CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Reilly JL, Harris MSH, Khine TT, Keshavan MS, Sweeney JA (2008) Reduced attentional engagement contributes to deficits in prefrontal inhibitory control in schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry 63:776–783CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Reuter B, Kathmann N (2004) Using saccade tasks as a tool to analyze executive dysfunctions in schizophrenia. Acta Psychol (Amst) 115:255–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Reuter-Lorenz PA, Oonk HM, Barnes LL, Hughes HC (1995) Effects of warning signals and fixation point offsets on the latencies of pro- versus antisaccades: implications for an interpretation of the gap effect. Exp Brain Res 103:287–293CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Roberts J, Hager LD, Heron C (1994) Prefrontal cognitive processes: working memory and inhibition in the antisaccade task. J Exp Psychol Gen 123:374–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Rogers RD, Monsell S (1995) Costs of a predictable switch between simple cognitive tasks. J Exp Psychol Gen 124:207–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ross LE, Ross SM (1980) Saccade latency and warning signals: stimulus onset, offset, and change as warning events. Percept Psychophys 27:251–257PubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Ross LE, Ross SM (1981) Saccade latency and warning signals: effects of auditory and visual stimulus onset and offset. Percept Psychophys 29:429–437PubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Rycroft N, Hutton SB, Rusted JM (2006) The antisaccade task as an index of sustained goal activation in working memory: modulation by nicotine. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 188:521–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Saslow MG (1967) Effects of components of displacement step stimuli upon reaction time for saccadic eye movement. J Opt Soc Am 57:1024–1029CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Shallice T, Burgess PW (1996) The domain of supervisory processes and temporal organisation of behaviour. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 351:1405–1412Google Scholar
  73. Stuyven E, Van der Goten K, Vandierendonck A, Claeys K, Crevits L (2000) The effect of cognitive load on saccadic eye movements. Acta Psychol 104:69–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Taylor AJG, Hutton SB (2008) The effects of individual differences on cued antisaccade performance. J Eye Mov Res 1:1–9Google Scholar
  75. Underwood BJ (1975) Individual differences as crucible in theory construction. Am Psychol 30:128–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Unsworth N, Schrock JC, Engle RW (2004) Working memory capacity and the antisaccade task: individual differences in voluntary saccade control. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 30:1302–1321CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Vogel EK, McCollough AW, Machizawa MG (2005) Neural measures reveal individual differences in controlling access to working memory. Nature 438:500–503Google Scholar
  78. Walker R, McSorley E (2006) The parallel programming of voluntary and reflexive saccades. Vision Res 46(13):2082–2093Google Scholar
  79. Walker R, Walker D, Husain M, Kennard C (2000) Control of voluntary and reflexive saccades. Exp Brain Res 130:540–544CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor J. Crawford
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Parker
    • 1
  • Ivonne Solis-Trapala
    • 2
  • Jenny Mayes
    • 3
  1. 1.The Mental Health Research and Neural Unit, Department of PsychologyLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  2. 2.Division of Medicine, School of Health and MedicineLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  3. 3.Biomedical and Life Sciences Division, School of Health and MedicineLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

Personalised recommendations