The aim of this thesis is to investigate the isolated and jointed influence of contextual factors, such as expectancy, conflict and motivation, on the latency distribution of saccades. The underlying hypothesis is that the analysis of the orienting eye movements recorded from human volunteers during simple saccadic tasks might provide a good insight into the decisionmaking mechanisms of our brain. The main focus is on a manipulation, to which we refer as the probabilitybias manipulation, designed to study the effects, on the generation of saccades, of spatiotemporal uncertainty regarding the location of the saccade target. Uncertainty is likely to affect the expectancy for a given sensorimotor event and this is reasonably a crucial determinant for the decisionmaking process leading to a saccade. The first central question addressed in chapter 3 is whether and how probabilistic information about the location of the target is used (consciously or unconsciously) by the oculomotor system under different task demands. The probabilitybias manipulation can also be seen as a particular instantiation of sequencerelated effects, or, in other terms, of those effects resulting from the history of the past trials. Therefore, the effect of the main manipulation might interact with the local trialsequence structure, i.e. the specific trials preceding the current one. In chapter 4 we present some results about this type of effects. The use of probabilistic information, and the corresponding adaptation of behaviour to the stimulus statistics, can be compared to the theoretical limits due to the finite size of the available sample of data. These limits can be defined in a mathematically precise form on the basis of the theory of statistical inference and of the Bayesian rule. In chapter 5 we address the issue of how efficiently, with respect to the theoretical limits, the distribution of saccadic latency adapts to the probabilitybias manipulation. The idea about this type of analysis came from several interesting discussions with professor William Bialek, at the University of Princeton, during a shortterm visit which was part of my PhD programme. The interaction of the probabilitybias manipulation with the graded involvement of voluntary control in the generation of saccades is also a main focus of this thesis. For this reason we tested our subjects with a set of paradigms demanding a different degree of voluntary commitment. In chapter 6, we analyse in particular the interaction of the probability bias with a decisional conflict, between the tendency to orient gaze to a visual onset and the required inhibition of the saccade. Finally, if we assume that the mechanisms of sensorimotor integration are capable to efficiently use the probabilistic information about the stimuli to optimise the behavioural performance, an interesting possibility is that such capability would maximally emerge when the target stimuli are associated to a strong motivational valence. This issue is examined at several points in the text of this thesis, and is discussed with particular attention in chapters 3 and 5. In chapter 7 we analyse the effect exerted by a manipulation of the valence per se, dissociating it from the probability bias manipulation. In other terms, we analyse the influence that the motivation to orient to the saccadic goal has on simple stimuluselicited saccades.
Decision making in the human saccadic eye movement system: effects of expectancy, conflict and motivation / Montagnini, Anna.  (2004 Dec 13).
Decision making in the human saccadic eye movement system: effects of expectancy, conflict and motivation
Montagnini, Anna
20041213
Abstract
The aim of this thesis is to investigate the isolated and jointed influence of contextual factors, such as expectancy, conflict and motivation, on the latency distribution of saccades. The underlying hypothesis is that the analysis of the orienting eye movements recorded from human volunteers during simple saccadic tasks might provide a good insight into the decisionmaking mechanisms of our brain. The main focus is on a manipulation, to which we refer as the probabilitybias manipulation, designed to study the effects, on the generation of saccades, of spatiotemporal uncertainty regarding the location of the saccade target. Uncertainty is likely to affect the expectancy for a given sensorimotor event and this is reasonably a crucial determinant for the decisionmaking process leading to a saccade. The first central question addressed in chapter 3 is whether and how probabilistic information about the location of the target is used (consciously or unconsciously) by the oculomotor system under different task demands. The probabilitybias manipulation can also be seen as a particular instantiation of sequencerelated effects, or, in other terms, of those effects resulting from the history of the past trials. Therefore, the effect of the main manipulation might interact with the local trialsequence structure, i.e. the specific trials preceding the current one. In chapter 4 we present some results about this type of effects. The use of probabilistic information, and the corresponding adaptation of behaviour to the stimulus statistics, can be compared to the theoretical limits due to the finite size of the available sample of data. These limits can be defined in a mathematically precise form on the basis of the theory of statistical inference and of the Bayesian rule. In chapter 5 we address the issue of how efficiently, with respect to the theoretical limits, the distribution of saccadic latency adapts to the probabilitybias manipulation. The idea about this type of analysis came from several interesting discussions with professor William Bialek, at the University of Princeton, during a shortterm visit which was part of my PhD programme. The interaction of the probabilitybias manipulation with the graded involvement of voluntary control in the generation of saccades is also a main focus of this thesis. For this reason we tested our subjects with a set of paradigms demanding a different degree of voluntary commitment. In chapter 6, we analyse in particular the interaction of the probability bias with a decisional conflict, between the tendency to orient gaze to a visual onset and the required inhibition of the saccade. Finally, if we assume that the mechanisms of sensorimotor integration are capable to efficiently use the probabilistic information about the stimuli to optimise the behavioural performance, an interesting possibility is that such capability would maximally emerge when the target stimuli are associated to a strong motivational valence. This issue is examined at several points in the text of this thesis, and is discussed with particular attention in chapters 3 and 5. In chapter 7 we analyse the effect exerted by a manipulation of the valence per se, dissociating it from the probability bias manipulation. In other terms, we analyse the influence that the motivation to orient to the saccadic goal has on simple stimuluselicited saccades.File  Dimensione  Formato  

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