The Role of Inhibitory Control of Reflex Mechanisms in Voluntary Behavior

Chapter

Abstract

Gaze is often a powerful cue as to where someone’s attention is directed and as to what someone intends to do. However, the relationship between fixational eye movements, attention, and intentions is not always straightforward. The phenomenon of covert attention, by which we can direct attention to visual objects that are not being foveated, demonstrates that visual attention can be uncoupled from eye fixations. Observations such as these suggest that eye movements are an example of interaction between reflexive and voluntary behavior. Shifts of selective visual attention are controlled in part by the same frontal areas that control voluntary eye movements. The role of voluntary inhibition of reflex eye movements is clearly shown in the antisaccade task, in which participants learn to look away from a salient stimulus that would trigger a reflex saccade. Voluntary inhibition of reflex behavior in humans appears to be a prerequisite for the emergence of free will.

Keywords

Gaze Saccade Inhibition Visual attention Free will 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Preparation of this chapter was supported by grants from the European Union (231722, IM-CLeVeR) and from the National Institutes of Health (R01 HD054979, R21 HD068584)

References

  1. Bergen, J. R., & Julesz, B. (1983). Parallel versus serial processing in rapid pattern discrimination. Nature, 303, 696–698.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bisley, J. W. (2011). The neural basis of visual attention. The Journal of Physiology, 49–57.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cameron, I. G., et al. (2012). Impaired executive function signals in motor brain regions in Parkinson’s disease. Neuroimage, 60, 1156–1170.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Donders, F. C. (1848). Beiträge zur Lehre von den Bewegungen des menschlichen Auges. Holländische Beiträge Anat. Physiol. Wiss I, 104–145.Google Scholar
  5. Everling, S., & Fischer, B. (1998). The antisaccade: A review of basic research and clinical studies. Neuropsychologia, 36, 885–899.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Horowitz, T. S., Wolfe, J. M., Alvarez, G. A., Cohen, M. A., & Kuzmova, Y. I. (2009). The speed of free will. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2262–2288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Helmholtz, H. V. (1863). Ueber die normalen Bewegungen des menschlichen Auges. Archiv für Ophthalmologie, 9(2):153–214.Google Scholar
  8. Hutton, S. B., & Ettinger, U. (2006). The antisaccade task as a research tool in psychopathology: A critical review. Psychophysiology, 43, 302–313.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Imai, T., Moore, S. T., Raphan, T., & Cohen, B. (2011). Interaction of the body, head, and eyes during walking and turning. Experimental Brain Research, 136, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ingram, J. N., & Wolpert, D. M. (2011). Naturalistic approaches to sensorimotor control. Progress in Brain Research, 191, 3–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jonas, H. (2001). The nobility of sight: A study in the phenomenology of the senses. In: The phenomenon of life. Toward a philosophical biology. Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Mitchell, P. (1994). Realism and early conception of mind. A synthesis of phylogenetic and ontogenetic issues. In C. Lewis & P. Mitchell (Eds.), Children’s early understanding of mind (pp. 19-46). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Munoz, D. P., & Everling, S. (2004). Look away: The anti-saccade task and the voluntary control of eye movement. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5, 218–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Listing, J. P. (1845). Beitrag zur Physiologischen Optik. Goettingen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht: Goettinger Studien.Google Scholar
  15. Lohnes, C. A., & Earhart, G. M. (2011). Saccadic eye movements are related to turning performance in Parkinson Disease. Journal of Parkinson's Disease, 1, 109–118.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Posner, M. (1980). Orienting of attention. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32, 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Richards, A. M., Hannon, E., & Vitkovic, M. (2012). Distracted by distractors: eye movements in a dynamic inattentional blindness task. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 170–176.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schafer, R. J., & Moore, T. (2011). Selective attention from voluntary control of neurons in prefrontal cortex. Science, 332, 1568–1571.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tweed, D., Cadera, W., & Villis, T. (1990). Computing three-dimensional eye position quaternions and eye velocity from search coil signals. Vision Research, 30, 97–110.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wilson, M. R., Wood, G., & Vine, S. J. (2009). Anxiety, attentional control, and performance impairment in penalty kicks. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 31, 761–775.Google Scholar
  21. Woodward, A. L. (2003). Infants' developing understanding of the link between looker and object. Developmental Science, 6(3), 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yarbus, A. L. (1961). Eye movements during the examination of complicated objects. Biofizika, 6(2), 52–56.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lab of Developmental NeuroscienceUniversità Campus Bio-MedicoRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations