Visually guided catch-up saccades during the pursuit of a moving target are highly influenced by smooth pursuit performance. For example, the decision to execute a saccade and its amplitude is driven by the difference in velocity between the eye and the target. In previous studies, we have demonstrated that the predictive saccades that occur during the blanking of the moving target compensate for the variability of the smooth pursuit response. Therefore, we wondered whether the predictive smooth pursuit response during target blanking influenced the occurrence of predictive saccades, which is the case for visually guided catch-up saccades. To answer this question, we asked subjects to track visually a target moving along a circular path. From time to time, the target was unexpectedly blanked for some randomized durations and disappeared from the screen. Surprisingly, we did not find any differences in smooth pursuit performance between the blanks that did and those that did not contain predictive saccades. In addition, during the blanks, the differences in smooth pursuit performance across the sessions or across the subjects did not correlate with the differences in the number of predictive saccades. Therefore, this study demonstrates that smooth pursuit performance does not influence the occurrence of predictive saccades. We interpret these results in light of the possible minimization of position error at target reappearance, which heavily depends on the saccadic amplitudes but not on their timing.
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