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Relatively little is known about visual processing during free-viewing visual search in realistic dynamic environments. Free-viewing is characterized by frequent saccades. During saccades, visual processing is thought to be suppressed, yet we know that the presaccadic visual content can modulate postsaccadic processing. To better understand these processes in a realistic setting, we study here saccades and neural responses elicited by the appearance of visual targets in a realistic virtual environment. While subjects were being driven through a 3D virtual town, they were asked to discriminate between targets that appear on the road. Using a system identification approach, we separated overlapping and correlated activity evoked by visual targets, saccades, and button presses. We found that the presence of a target enhances early occipital as well as late frontocentral saccade-related responses. The earlier potential, shortly after 125 ms post-saccade onset, was enhanced for targets that appeared in the peripheral vision as compared to the central vision, suggesting that fast peripheral processing initiated before saccade onset. The later potential, at 195 ms post-saccade onset, was strongly modulated by the visibility of the target. Together these results suggest that, during natural viewing, neural processing of the presaccadic visual stimulus continues throughout the saccade, apparently unencumbered by saccadic suppression.


This work was originally published in the Journal of Vision, available at

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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