Initiation of saccades during fixation or pursuit: evidence in humans for a single mechanism

R. J. Krauzlis, F. A. Miles


1. In four human subjects, we measured the latency of saccadic eye movements made to a second, eccentric target after an initial, foveated target was extinguished. In separate interleaved trails, the targets were either both stationary (“fixation”) or both moving with the same velocity (“pursuit”). For both fixation and pursuit trials, we extinguished the first target at randomized times during maintained fixation or pursuit and varied the time interval (“gap duration”) before the appearance of the second target. 2. During both fixation and pursuit, the presence of a 200-ms gap reduced the latencies of saccades, compared with those obtained with no gap. For two subjects, we imposed additional, intermediate gap durations and found that saccade latencies varied as a function of gap duration. Furthermore, the latencies of saccades elicited during pursuit displayed the same dependence on gap duration as those elicited during fixation. 3. Our results demonstrate that the “gap effect” observed for saccades made during fixation also occurs for saccades made during pursuit. To the extent that the gap effect on saccade latency reflects a mechanism underlying the release of fixation, our results suggest that the same mechanism is invoked for saccades made during pursuit. From the viewpoint of initiating saccades, the existence of separate fixation and pursuit systems may be irrelevant.