Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 12, pp 3181–3190 | Cite as

Keeping your eye on the target: eye–hand coordination in a repetitive Fitts’ task

  • S. de Vries
  • R. Huys
  • P. G. Zanone
Research Article


In a cyclical Fitts’ task, hand movements transition from continuous to discrete movements when the Index of Difficulty (ID) increases. Moreover, at high ID (small target), the eyes saccade to and subsequently fixate the targets at every movement, while at low ID (large target) intermittent monitoring is used. By hypothesis, the (periodic) gaze shifts are abandoned for movement times shorter than about 0.350 s due to systemic constraints (i.e., a refractory period and intrinsic latency). If so, the transition in eye and hand movements is independent. To investigate these issues, the present study examined the effects of changing ID via the targets’ width or distance as well as hysteresis in eye–hand coordination. To this aim, 14 participants performed a cyclical Fitts’ task while their hand and eye movements were recorded simultaneously. The results show that the transition in eye–hand synchronization (at 2.87 bit; 0.25 s) and in hand dynamics (at 4.85 bit; 0.81 s) neither co-occurred nor correlated. Some small width vs. distance dissociations and hysteresis effects were found, but they disappeared when eye–hand synchronization was viewed as a function of movement time rather than ID. This confirms that a minimal between-saccade time is the limiting factor in eye–hand synchronization. Additionally, the timing between the start of the hand movement and the saccade appeared to be relatively constant (at 0.15 s) and independent of movement time, implying a constant delay that should be implemented in a dynamical model of eye–hand coordination.


Fitts’ task Coordination Eye–hand Synchronization Cyclical movement Gaze behavior 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicting interests.


  1. Abrams RA, Meyer DE, Kornblum S (1989) Speed and accuracy of saccadic eye movements: characteristics of impulse variability in the oculomotor system. J Exp Psychol Human 15(3):529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrade JM, Estévez-Pérez MG (2014) Statistical comparison of the slopes of two regression lines: a tutorial. Anal Chim Acta 838:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Binsted G, Chua R, Helsen W, Elliott D (2001) Eye–hand coordination in goal-directed aiming. Hum Mov Sci 20:563–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bootsma RJ, Boulard M, Fernandez L, Mottet D (2002) Informational constraints in human precision aiming. Neurosci Lett 333:141–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buchanan JJ, Park JH, Shea CH (2004) Systematic scaling of target width: dynamics, planning, and feedback. Neurosci Lett 367:317–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buchanan JJ, Park JH, Shea CH (2006) Target width scaling in a repetitive aiming task: Switching between cyclical and discrete units of action. Exp Brain Res 175:710–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Elliott D, Helsen WF, Chua R (2001) A century later: Woodworth’s (1899) two-component model of goal-directed aiming. Psychol Bull 127:342–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fernandez L, Warren WH, Bootsma RJ (2006) Kinematic adaptation to sudden changes in visual task constraints during reciprocal aiming. Hum Mov Sci 25:695–717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fitts PM (1954) The information capacity of the human motor system in controlling the amplitude of movement. J Exp Psychol 47:381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fitts PM, Peterson JR (1964) Information capacity of discrete motor responses. J Exp Psychol 67:103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gowen E, Abadi RV (2005) Saccadic instabilities and voluntary saccadic behavior. Exp Brain Res 164:29–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guiard Y (1993) On Fitts’ and Hooke’s laws: Simple harmonic movement in upper-limb cyclical aiming. Acta Psychol 82:139–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guiard Y (1997) Fitts’ law in the discrete vs. cyclical paradigm. Hum Mov Sci 16(1):97–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haken H (1983) Synergetics: An introduction: Nonequilibrium phase transitions and self-organization in physics, chemistry, and biology. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  15. Haken H, Kelso JAS, Bunz H (1985) A theoretical model of phase transitions in human hand movements. Biol Cybern 51:347–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harris CM, Wolpert DM (2006) The main sequence of saccades optimizes speed-accuracy trade-off. Biol Cybern 95:21–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Helsen WF, Elliott D, Starkes JL, Ricker KL (1998) Temporal and spatial coupling of point of gaze and hand movements in aiming. J Motor Behav 30:249–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Huys R, Studenka BE, Rheaume NL, Zelaznik HN, Jirsa VK (2008) Distinct timing mechanisms produce discrete and continuous movements. PLoS Comput Biol 4:e1000061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huys R, Fernandez L, Bootsma RJ, Jirsa VK (2010) Fitts’ law is not continuous in reciprocal aiming. P Roy Soc Lond B Bio 277(1685):1179–1184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huys R, Knol H, Sleimen-Malkoun R, Temprado JJ, Jirsa VK (2015) Does changing Fitts’ index of difficulty evoke transitions in movement dynamics? EPJ Nonlinear Biomed Phys 3:8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jirsa VK, Kelso JAS (2005) The excitator as a minimal model for the coordination dynamics of discrete and rhythmic movement generation. J Motor Behav 37:35–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jürgens R, Becker W, Kornhuber HH (1981) Natural and drug-induced variations of velocity and duration of human saccadic eye movements: evidence for a control of the neural pulse generator by local feedback. Biol Cybern 39:87–96FCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Knol H, Huys R, Sarrazin JC, Spiegler A, Jirsa VK (2017) Ebbinghaus figures that deceive the eye do not necessarily deceive the hand. Sci Rep 7:3111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lazzari S, Mottet D, Vercher JL (2009) Eye–hand coordination in rhythmical pointing. J Motor Behav 41:294–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. MacKenzie IS (1992) Fitts’ law as a research and design tool in human-computer interaction. Human Comput Interact 7:91–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meyer DE, Abrams RA, Kornblum S, Wright CE, Keith Smith JE (1988) Optimality in human motor performance: Ideal control of rapid aimed movements. Psychol Rev 95:340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mottet D, Bootsma RJ (1999) The dynamics of goal-directed rhythmical aiming. Biol Cybern 80:235–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mottet D, Guiard Y, Ferrand T, Bootsma RJ (2001) Two-handed performance of a rhythmical fitts task by individuals and dyads. J Exp Psychol Human 27:1275–1286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Motulsky H, Christopoulos A (2004) Fitting models to biological data using linear and nonlinear regression: a practical guide to curve fitting. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  30. Sheridan RS (1979) A reappraisal of Fitts’ law. J Motor Behav 11:179–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Strogatz S (1994) Nonlinear dynamics and chaos: With applications to physics, biology, chemistry, and engineering. Perseus, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Terrier R, Forestier N, Berrigan F, Germain-Robitaille M, Lavallière M, Teasdale N (2011) Effect of terminal accuracy requirements on temporal eye–hand coordination during fast discrete and reciprocal pointings. J Neuroeng Rehabil 8:10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. van Mourik AM, Beek PJ (2004) Discrete and cyclical movements: unified dynamics or separate control? Acta Psychol 117:121–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Welford AT (1968) Fundamentals of skill. Methuen, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Welford AT, Norris AH, Shock NW (1969) Speed and accuracy of movement and their changes with age. Acta Psychol 30:3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Woodworth RS (1899) The accuracy of voluntary movement. Psychol Rev 3:1–119Google Scholar
  37. Wu CC, Kwon OS, Kowler E (2010) Fitts’s Law and speed/accuracy trade-offs during sequences of saccades: Implications for strategies of saccadic planning. Vis Res 50:2142–2157CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Université de Toulouse, UMR 5549 CERCO (Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition), UPS, CNRS, Pavillon Baudot CHU PurpanToulouseFrance

Personalised recommendations