Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 213, Issue 1, pp 99–109 | Cite as

The relative timing between eye and hand in rapid sequential pointing is affected by time pressure, but not by advance knowledge

  • F. J. A. Deconinck
  • V. van Polanen
  • G. J. P. Savelsbergh
  • S. J. Bennett
Research Article


The present study examined the effect of timing constraints and advance knowledge on eye–hand coordination strategy in a sequential pointing task. Participants were required to point at two successively appearing targets on a screen while the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) and the trial order were manipulated, such that timing constraints were high (ISI = 300 ms) or low (ISI = 450 ms) and advance knowledge of the target location was present (fixed order) or absent (random order). Analysis of eye and finger onset and completion times per segment of the sequence indicated that oculo-manual behaviour was in general characterized by eye movements preceding the finger, as well as ‘gaze anchoring’ (i.e. eye fixation of the first target until completion of the finger movement towards that target). Advance knowledge of future target locations lead to shorter latency times of eye and hand, and smaller eye–hand lead times, which in combination resulted in shorter total movement times. There was, however, no effect of advance knowledge on the duration of gaze anchoring. In contrast, gaze anchoring did change as a function of the interval between successive stimuli and was shorter with a 300 ms ISI versus 450 ms ISI. Further correlation analysis provided some indication that shorter residual latency is associated with shorter pointing duration, without affecting accuracy. These results are consistent with a neural mechanism governing the coupling of eye and arm movements, which has been suggested to reside in the superior colliculus. The temporal coordination resulting from this coupling is a function of the time pressure on the visuo-manual system resulting from the appearance of external stimuli.


Gaze anchoring Saccade Oculomotor control Manual control Reaching Pointing 



This research was partly supported by grants from the ‘Leven Lang Leren Programma Erasmus 2008–2009’, the ‘Stichting Dr. Hendrik Muller’s Vaderlandsch Fonds’ and the ‘Stichting Fundatie van de Vrijvrouwe van Renswoude te ‘s-Gravenhage’ to Vonne van Polanen.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. J. A. Deconinck
    • 1
    • 2
  • V. van Polanen
    • 3
  • G. J. P. Savelsbergh
    • 1
    • 4
  • S. J. Bennett
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute for Biomedical Research into Human Movement and HealthManchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK
  2. 2.Department of Movement and Sports SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Physics of Man, Helmholtz InstituteUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Research Institute MOVEVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Research Institute for Exercise and Sport SciencesLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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