Express saccades are considered to have the shortest latency (70–110 ms) of all saccadic eye movements. The influence of visuomotor set, preparatory processes that spatially affect a sensorimotor response, on express saccades was examined by instructing human subjects to make a saccade to one of two simultaneously appearing spots defined by its position relative to the other. A temporal gap between fixation point disappearance and target appearance was used to facilitate the production of express saccades. For all subjects, the instruction influenced the vector of express saccades without increasing saccade latency. The effect on express saccades was only slightly weaker than that for longer latency saccades. Saccade curvature was minimal and did not depend strongly on task. Further experiments demonstrated that the effect of instruction on express saccade vector was much weaker when saccades were instructed to be made to one side of a single small spot, that the effect of instruction was equally strong when directing saccades to the less salient of two stimuli, and that an instruction could not only determine the direction of the effect but also modulate the effect’s magnitude. The effect of instruction on saccade vector was no higher when blocked than when varied across trials. These results suggest that express saccades are influenced by object-relative spatial preparatory processes without increasing their reaction time and, thus, that high-level cognitive processes can influence the most reflexive of saccadic eye movements
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