Cognitive Processing

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 543–549 | Cite as

Eye movements disrupt spatial but not visual mental imagery

  • Stefania de Vito
  • Antimo Buonocore
  • Jean-François Bonnefon
  • Sergio Della Sala
Short Report


It has long been known that eye movements are functionally involved in the generation and maintenance of mental images. Indeed, a number of studies demonstrated that voluntary eye movements interfere with mental imagery tasks (e.g., Laeng and Teodorescu in Cogn Sci 26:207–231, 2002). However, mental imagery is conceived as a multifarious cognitive function with at least two components, a spatial component and a visual component. The present study investigated the question of whether eye movements disrupt mental imagery in general or only its spatial component. We present data on healthy young adults, who performed visual and spatial imagery tasks concurrently with a smooth pursuit. In line with previous literature, results revealed that eye movements had a strong disruptive effect on spatial imagery. Moreover, we crucially demonstrated that eye movements had no disruptive effect when participants visualized the depictive aspects of an object. Therefore, we suggest that eye movements serve to a greater extent the spatial than the visual component of mental imagery.


Eye movements Visual imagery Spatial mental imagery Visual mental imagery Smooth pursuit 


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefania de Vito
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antimo Buonocore
    • 3
  • Jean-François Bonnefon
    • 4
  • Sergio Della Sala
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre de Recherche de l’Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinièreINSERMParisFrance
  2. 2.Laboratory of Experimental PsychologySuor Orsola Benincasa UniversityNaplesItaly
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Center for Mind/Brain SciencesTrento UniversityTrentoItaly
  4. 4.CLLEToulouseFrance
  5. 5.Human Cognitive Neuroscience, PsychologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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