Small, involuntary eye movements help us see a stable world

Feb. 24, 2023

Our eyes are never at rest. Instead, they remain in motion, even between our voluntary gaze shifts, through fixational eye movements—small, continuous movements of the eye that we are not aware of making.

Scientists have long sought to understand how we humans can perceive the world as stable as our eyes are constantly moving. Past research has suggested that, in the intervals between voluntary gaze shifts, the human visual system builds a picture of a stable world by relying solely on sensory inputs from fixational eye movements. According to new research by a team at the University of Rochester, however, there may be another contributing factor.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers—including Michele Rucci, a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and at the University’s Center for Visual Science, and first author Zhetuo Zhao, a PhD student in Rucci’s lab—report that the visual system not only receives sensory inputs from fixational eye movements but also possesses knowledge of the motor behavior involved in those movements.

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