Eye movements and manual interception of ballistic trajectories: effects of law of motion perturbations and occlusions

Sergio Delle Monache, Francesco Lacquaniti, Gianfranco Bosco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Manual interceptions are known to depend critically on integration of visual feedback information and experience-based predictions of the interceptive event. Within this framework, coupling between gaze and limb movements might also contribute to the interceptive outcome, since eye movements afford acquisition of high-resolution visual information. We investigated this issue by analyzing subjects’ head-fixed oculomotor behavior during manual interceptions. Subjects moved a mouse cursor to intercept computer-generated ballistic trajectories either congruent with Earth’s gravity or perturbed with weightlessness (0g) or hypergravity (2g) effects. In separate sessions, trajectories were either fully visible or occluded before interception to enforce visual prediction. Subjects’ oculomotor behavior was classified in terms of amounts of time they gazed at different visual targets and of overall number of saccades. Then, by way of multivariate analyses, we assessed the following: (1) whether eye movement patterns depended on targets’ laws of motion and occlusions; and (2) whether interceptive performance was related to the oculomotor behavior. First, we found that eye movement patterns depended significantly on targets’ laws of motion and occlusion, suggesting predictive mechanisms. Second, subjects coupled differently oculomotor and interceptive behavior depending on whether targets were visible or occluded. With visible targets, subjects made smaller interceptive errors if they gazed longer at the mouse cursor. Instead, with occluded targets, they achieved better performance by increasing the target’s tracking accuracy and by avoiding gaze shifts near interception, suggesting that precise ocular tracking provided better trajectory predictions for the interceptive response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-374
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Eye movements
  • Gravity
  • Internal model
  • Manual interception
  • Prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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