Impact of simulated central scotomas on visual search in natural scenes

Lee McIlreavy, Jozsef Fiser, Peter J. Bex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE.: In performing search tasks, the visual system encodes information across the visual field at a resolution inversely related to eccentricity and deploys saccades to place visually interesting targets upon the fovea, where resolution is highest. The serial process of fixation, punctuated by saccadic eye movements, continues until the desired target has been located. Loss of central vision restricts the ability to resolve the high spatial information of a target, interfering with this visual search process. We investigate oculomotor adaptations to central visual field loss with gaze-contingent artificial scotomas. METHODS.: Spatial distortions were placed at random locations in 25° square natural scenes. Gaze-contingent artificial central scotomas were updated at the screen rate (75 Hz) based on a 250 Hz eye tracker. Eight subjects searched the natural scene for the spatial distortion and indicated its location using a mouse-controlled cursor. RESULTS.: As the central scotoma size increased, the mean search time increased [F(3,28) = 5.27, p = 0.05], and the spatial distribution of gaze points during fixation increased significantly along the x [F(3,28) = 6.33, p = 0.002] and y [F(3,28) = 3.32, p = 0.034] axes. Oculomotor patterns of fixation duration, saccade size, and saccade duration did not change significantly, regardless of scotoma size. CONCLUSIONS.: There is limited automatic adaptation of the oculomotor system after simulated central vision loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1394
Number of pages10
JournalOptometry and Vision Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2012


  • eye tracking
  • fixation
  • saccade
  • scotoma
  • visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Optometry

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