Time course of precision in smooth-pursuit eye movements of monkeys

Leslie C. Osborne, Sonja S. Hohl, William Bialek, Stephen G. Lisberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


To evaluate the nature and possible sources of variation in sensory-motor behavior, we measured the signal-to-noise ratio for the initiation of smooth-pursuit eye movements as a function of time and computed thresholds that indicate how well the pursuit system discriminates small differences in the direction, speed, or time of onset of target motion. Thresholds improved rapidly as a function of time and came close to their minima during the interval when smooth eye movement is driven only by visual motion inputs. Many features of the data argued that motor output and sensory discrimination are limited by the same noise source. Pursuit thresholds reached magnitudes similar to those for perception:<2-3° of direction, ∼11-15% of target speed, and 8ms of change in the time of onset of target motion. Pursuit and perceptual thresholds had similar dependencies on the duration of the motion stimulus and showed similar effects of target speed. The evolution of information about direction of target motion followed the same time course in pursuit behavior and in a previously reported sample of neuronal responses from extrastriate area MT. Changing the form of the sensory input while keeping the motor response fixed had significant effects on the signal-to-noise ratio in pursuit for direction discrimination, whereas holding the sensory input constant while changing the combination of muscles used for the motor output did not. We conclude that noise in sensory processing of visual motion provides the major source of variation in the initiation of pursuit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2987-2998
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 14 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Extrastriate cortex
  • Information theory
  • MT
  • Motor noise
  • Sensory discrimination
  • Signal-to-noise ratio
  • Visual motion


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