Move It or Lose It

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Science  24 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5461, pp. 2117
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5461.2117d

The sensory apparatus of animals is specialized to detect changes in the environment because these often indicate either danger or opportunities for food. A stationary stimulus, on the other hand, is considered to be rather dull and thus, the energy of processing it should be minimized. In the visual system a phenomenon called “fading” seems to belong to this energy conservation process. If a stimulus is projected continuously onto a single retinal location, perception of it fades over time. In order to see a stationary scene, small eye movements are needed.

Martinez-Conde et al. recorded from neurons in the primary visual cortex of macaque monkeys while tracking the animals' eye movements. They observed an increase in bursts of spikes after microsaccades, suggesting that microsaccade-related neuronal activity helps to prevent the loss of visual perception.—PRS

Nature Neurosci.3, 251 (2000).

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