Interactions between eye movement systems in cats and humans

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Eye movements can be broadly classified into target-selecting and gaze-stabilizing eye movements. How do the different systems interact under natural conditions? Here we investigate interactions between the optokinetic and the target-selecting system in cats and humans. We use combinations of natural and grating stimuli. The natural stimuli are movies and pictures taken from the cat's own point of view with a head-mounted camera while it moved about freely in an outdoor environment. We superimpose linear global motion on the stimuli and use measurements of optokinetic nystagmus as a probe to study the interaction between the different systems responsible for controlling eye movements. Cats display higher precision stabilizing eye movements in response to natural pictures as compared to drifting gratings. In contrast, humans perform similarly under these two conditions. This suggests an interaction of the optokinetic and the pursuit system. In cats, the natural movies elicit very weak optokinetic responses. In humans, by contrast, the natural movie stimuli elicit effectively stabilizing eye movements. In both species, we find a unimodal distribution of saccades for all stimulus velocities. This suggests an early interaction of target-selecting and gaze-stabilizing saccades. Thus, we argue for a more integrated view in humans of the different eye movement systems.

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