We have studied how rewards modulate the occurrence of microsaccades by manipulating the size of an expected reward and the location of the cue that sets the expectations for future reward. We found an interaction between the size of the reward and the location of the cue. When monkeys fixated on a cue that signaled the size of future reward, the frequency of microsaccades was higher if the monkey expected a large vs. a small reward. When the cue was presented at a site in the visual field that was remote from the position of fixation, reward size had the opposite effect: the frequency of microsaccades was lower when the monkey was expecting a large reward. The strength of pursuit initiation also was affected by reward size and by the presence of microsaccades just before the onset of target motion. The gain of pursuit initiation increased with reward size and decreased when microsaccades occurred just before or after the onset of target motion. The effect of the reward size on pursuit initiation was much larger than any indirect effects reward might cause through modulation of the rate of microsaccades. We found only a weak relationship between microsaccade direction and the location of the exogenous cue relative to fixation position, even in experiments where the location of the cue indicated the direction of target motion. Our results indicate that the expectation of reward is a powerful modulator of the occurrence of microsaccades, perhaps through attentional mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- !!General Neuroscience