Evidence for confounding eye movements under attempted fixation and active viewing in cognitive neuroscience

Thielen, J. (Jordy)
Sander Bosch
Leeuwen, T.M. van
Gerven, M.A.J. van (Marcel)
Lier, R.J. van

Eye movements can have serious confounding effects in cognitive neuroscience experiments. Therefore, participants are commonly asked to fixate. Regardless, participants will make so-called fixational eye movements under attempted fixation, which are thought to be necessary to prevent perceptual fading. Neural changes related to these eye movements could potentially explain previously reported neural decoding and neuroimaging results under attempted fixation. In previous work, under attempted fixation and passive viewing, we found no evidence for systematic eye movements. Here, however, we show that participants’ eye movements are systematic under attempted fixation when active viewing is demanded by the task. Since eye movements directly affect early visual cortex activity, commonly used for neural decoding, our findings imply alternative explanations for previously reported results in neural decoding.