The volitional inhibition of anticipatory ocular pursuit using a stop signal

Christian Beresford Jarrett, Graham R. Barnes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Unlike limb movements, smooth pursuit eye movements cannot normally be performed in the absence of a target. However, when subjects have a high expectancy of an imminent target appearance, the situation changes, and anticipatory smooth pursuit (ASP) tends to precede target onset by several hundred milliseconds. The velocity of this ASP is scaled predictively according to expected target velocity. And when an upcoming target is unexpectedly altered, or fails to appear, ASP continues regardless for ∼150-200 ms before modification by visual feedback begins [J. Neurophysiol., 84 (2000) 2340]. These and other observations led to the earlier suggestion that ASP might be ballistic, being pre-programmed from start to finish. Two experiments with different timing parameters were therefore performed to test this hypothesis using a version of Logan's [Psychol. Rev., 91 (1984) 295] stop signal task. The aim was to test whether ASP could be stopped at will, and if so, whether the time taken to stop varied as a function of the time since ASP onset. Results showed that in response to a stop signal, ASP can be inhibited at any point in its trajectory, and for the majority of subjects in experiment 1, and all the subjects in experiment 2, with a latency that does not change significantly with target speed or time since ASP onset. These results provide the first demonstration that anticipatory movements can be stopped volitionally in response to a stop signal. Possible cognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying this process are discussed. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)759-769
    Number of pages10
    JournalCognitive Brain Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003


    • Anticipation
    • Eye movement
    • Motor control
    • Motor systems and sensorimotor integration
    • Oculomotor system
    • Smooth pursuit
    • Stop signal


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