Overt Oculomotor Behavior Reveals Covert Temporal Predictions

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 16 (2022)
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Abstract

Our eyes move in response to stimulus statistics, reacting to surprising events, and adapting to predictable ones. Cortical and subcortical pathways contribute to generating context-specific eye-movement dynamics, and oculomotor dysfunction is recognized as one the early clinical markers of Parkinson's disease. We asked if covert computations of environmental statistics generating temporal expectations for a potential target are registered by eye movements, and if so, assuming that temporal expectations rely on motor system efficiency, whether they are impaired in PD. We used a repeating tone sequence, which generates a hazard rate distribution of target probability, and analyzed the distribution of blinks when participants were waiting for the target, but the target did not appear. Results show that, although PD participants tend to produce fewer and less temporally organized blink events relative to healthy controls, in both groups blinks became more suppressed with increasing target probability, leading to a hazard rate of oculomotor inhibition effects. The covert generation of temporal predictions may reflect a key feature of cognitive resilience in Parkinson's Disease.

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