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Planning to revisit: Neural activity in refixation precursors

  • Nikolaev, Andrey R; 84223;
  • Ehinger, Benedikt V;
  • Meghanathan, Radha Nila;
  • van Leeuwen, Cees; 77138;
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2023
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Eye tracking studies suggest that refixations-fixations to locations previously visited-serve to recover information lost or missed during earlier exploration of a visual scene. These studies have largely ignored the role of precursor fixations-previous fixations on locations the eyes return to later. We consider the possibility that preparations to return later are already made during precursor fixations. This process would mark precursor fixations as a special category of fixations, that is, distinct in neural activity from other fixation categories such as refixations and fixations to locations visited only once. To capture the neural signals associated with fixation categories, we analyzed electroencephalograms (EEGs) and eye movements recorded simultaneously in a free-viewing contour search task. We developed a methodological pipeline involving regression-based deconvolution modeling, allowing our analyses to account for overlapping EEG responses owing to the saccade sequence and other oculomotor covariates. We found that precursor fixations were preceded by the largest saccades among the fixation categories. Independent of the effect of saccade length, EEG amplitude was enhanced in precursor fixations compared with the other fixation categories 200 to 400 ms after fixation onsets, most noticeably over the occipital areas. We concluded that precursor fixations play a pivotal role in visual perception, marking the continuous occurrence of transitions between exploratory and exploitative modes of eye movement in natural viewing behavior. / status: published

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