Kinesthetic information facilitates saccades towards proprioceptive-tactile targets

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Saccades to somatosensory targets have longer latencies and are less accurate and precise than saccades to visual targets. Here we examined how different somatosensory information influences the planning and control of saccadic eye movements. Participants fixated a central cross and initiated a saccade as fast as possible in response to a tactile stimulus that was presented to either the index or the middle fingertip of their unseen left hand. In a static condition, the hand remained at a target location for the entire block of trials and the stimulus was presented at a fixed time after an auditory tone. Therefore, the target location was derived only from proprioceptive and tactile information. In a moving condition, the hand was first actively moved to the same target location and the stimulus was then presented immediately. Thus, in the moving condition additional kinesthetic information about the target location was available. We found shorter saccade latencies in the moving compared to the static condition, but no differences in accuracy or precision of saccadic endpoints. In a second experiment, we introduced variable delays after the auditory tone (static condition) or after the end of the hand movement (moving condition) in order to reduce the predictability of the moment of the stimulation and to allow more time to process the kinesthetic information. Again, we found shorter latencies in the moving compared to the static condition but no improvement in saccade accuracy or precision. In a third experiment, we showed that the shorter saccade latencies in the moving condition cannot be explained by the temporal proximity between the relevant event (auditory tone or end of hand movement) and the moment of the stimulation. Our findings suggest that kinesthetic information facilitates planning, but not control, of saccadic eye movements to proprioceptive-tactile targets.

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