Lawful tracking of visual motion in humans, macaques, and marmosets in a naturalistic, continuous, and untrained behavioral context

Jonas Knöll, Jonathan William Pillow, Alexander C. Huk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Much study of the visual system has focused on how humans and monkeys integrate moving stimuli over space and time. Such assessments of spatiotemporal integration provide fundamental grounding for the interpretation of neurophysiological data, as well as how the resulting neural signals support perceptual decisions and behavior. However, the insights supported by classical characterizations of integration performed in humans and rhesus monkeys are potentially limited with respect to both generality and detail: Standard tasks require extensive amounts of training, involve abstract stimulus-response mappings, and depend on combining data across many trials and/or sessions. It is thus of concern that the integration observed in classical tasks involves the recruitment of brain circuits that might not normally subsume natural behaviors, and that quantitative analyses have limited power for characterizing single-trial or single-session processes. Here we bridge these gaps by showing that three primate species (humans, macaques, and marmosets) track the focus of expansion of an optic flow field continuously and without substantial training. This flow-tracking behavior was volitional and reflected substantial temporal integration. Most strikingly, gaze patterns exhibited lawful and nuanced dependencies on random perturbations in the stimulus, such that repetitions of identical flow movies elicited remarkably similar eye movements over long and continuous time periods. These results demonstrate the generality of spatiotemporal integration in natural vision, and offer a means for studying integration outside of artificial tasks while maintaining lawful and highly reliable behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E10486-E10494
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Oct 30 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Eye tracking
  • Motion
  • Optic flow

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