Extent of compensation for variations in monkey saccadic eye movements
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We investigated and quantified the ability of the primate saccadic system to generate accurate eye movements in spite of naturally occurring variations in saccadic speed and trajectory. We show that the amplitude of a series of saccades directed to the same target is positively correlated to their peak speed, i.e., the faster the saccade, the bigger its amplitude. We demonstrate that this result cannot be simply accounted for by the main sequence, and that on average the saccadic system is able to compensate for only 61% of the variability in speed. Deviations from the average trajectory are also only partially compensated: the underlying mechanism, which tends to bring the eyes back toward the desired trajectory, underperforms for small movements and overperforms for large movements. We also demonstrate that the performance of this compensatory mechanism, and the metrics of saccades in general, do not depend on the presence of visual information during the movement. By showing that deviations from the desired behavior are corrected during the saccade, our results further support the hypothesis that the innervation signal that generates saccadic eye movements is not pre-programmed but rather is dynamically adjusted during the movement. However, the compensation for deviations from the desired behavior is only partial, and the underlying mechanisms have yet to be completely understood. Although none of the current models of the saccadic system can account for our results, some of them, if appropriately modified, probably could.
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