Fixational Eye Movements

  • Robert G. AlexanderEmail author
  • Susana Martinez-Conde
Part of the Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics book series (SNPBE)


There is too much going on around us to see everything at once, or to simultaneously process all the information in our field of view. Instead, we normally direct our gaze to parts of the scene that are particularly meaningful or important. Yet, even when we think that we are keeping our eyes still on an object of interest, our eyes remain in continuous motion. This chapter reviews the different kinds of “fixational” eye movements (the eye movements that occur when our gaze is “fixed” on an object or a point in space). We also discuss the effects that fixational eye movements have on vision and perception, their potential adaptive advantages, and their generation mechanisms. After reading this chapter, you will be able to articulate the importance of fixational eye movements in facilitating and influencing visual perception (for instance, in helping us to see the world and assisting us as we perform specific tasks). You will be able to explain the role of microsaccades (the largest of these small fixational eye movements) in counteracting neural adaptation and visual fading (the perceptual vanishing of an unchanging stimulus). You will also be able to outline the neural generation of microsaccades. In addition, this chapter will help you understand the relationship between fixational eye movements and shifts of attention. Finally, you will be able to describe, in general terms, the potential relevance of fixational eye movements to the diagnosis of neurological disorders.



This work was supported by a challenge grant from Research to Prevent Blindness Inc. to the Department of Ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate, the Empire Innovation Program (Award to SMC), and the National Science Foundation (Award 1734887). We thank Max Dorfman for his comments and Daniel Cortes-Rastrollo for administrative assistance.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences UniversityBrooklynUSA

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