Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 209, Issue 4, pp 537–549 | Cite as

Adaptation of catch-up saccades during the initiation of smooth pursuit eye movements

  • Alexander C. SchützEmail author
  • David Souto
Research Article


Reduction of retinal speed and alignment of the line of sight are believed to be the respective primary functions of smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements. As the eye muscles strength can change in the short-term, continuous adjustments of motor signals are required to achieve constant accuracy. While adaptation of saccade amplitude to systematic position errors has been extensively studied, we know less about the adaptive response to position errors during smooth pursuit initiation, when target motion has to be taken into account to program saccades, and when position errors at the saccade endpoint could also be corrected by increasing pursuit velocity. To study short-term adaptation (250 adaptation trials) of tracking eye movements, we introduced a position error during the first catch-up saccade made during the initiation of smooth pursuit—in a ramp-step-ramp paradigm. The target position was either shifted in the direction of the horizontally moving target (forward step), against it (backward step) or orthogonally to it (vertical step). Results indicate adaptation of catch-up saccade amplitude to back and forward steps. With vertical steps, saccades became oblique, by an inflexion of the early or late saccade trajectory. With a similar time course, post-saccadic pursuit velocity was increased in the step direction, adding further evidence that under some conditions pursuit and saccades can act synergistically to reduce position errors.


Saccade adaptation Pursuit adaptation Saccadic eye movements Smooth pursuit eye movements Catch-up saccade 



Author ACS was supported by the DFG Forschergruppe FOR 560 “Perception and action” and the DFG Graduiertenkolleg GRK 885 “NeuroAct”. Author DS was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation PBGEP1-125961. We would like to thank Laurent Goffart and Karl Gegenfurtner for advice; Dirk Kerzel for help with programming; Jean-Jacques Orban de Xivry and one anonymous reviewer for constructive criticism as well as Sabine Born and Leily Zarian for their participation as observers. Both authors contributed equally to this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Abteilung Allgemeine PsychologieJustus-Liebig-Universität GiessenGiessenGermany
  2. 2.Faculté de Psychologie et Sciences de l’ÉducationUniversité de GenèveGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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