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Alessandro Piras, Milena Raffi, Ivan Malagoli Lanzoni, Michela Persiani, Salvatore Squatrito; Microsaccades and Prediction of a Motor Act Outcome in a Dynamic Sport Situation. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2015;56(8):4520-4530. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.15-16880.
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Microsaccades could indicate the place where our mind is unconsciously focusing, although our gaze is directed elsewhere. Many studies report the importance of microsaccades in visual scene perception, but none of them has addressed their relationship with the perception of a dynamic action and the prediction of its outcome.
Expert and novice table tennis players were asked to fixate their gaze on a precise spot while viewing the launch of a ball whose final landing had to be predicted. Four separate epochs of the action were considered for their information content. The correctness of the prediction and microsaccade statistics were measured in order to estimate the relationship between covert attention and predictions.
Microsaccades rate showed a time course modulated by the different epochs, with a significant enhancement during the post-bounce. In this epoch, novices showed a significantly higher rate than experts when the responses were correct. Duration and amplitude were highest in the pre- and post-bounce periods and lowest in the other two. Mean microsaccades direction was toward the stimuli that most probably attracted the visual attention (ball or racket), whereas there was no relationship with the predicted side of the final bounce.
Distribution of microsaccades can be influenced by attentional cues in a task-specific situation, revealing links between visuomotor performance and covert attention shifts in fast visuomotor perception. Microsaccade orientation is conditioned by objects that attract visual attention and not by the direction in which action is expected to be performed.
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