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Sven Ohl; Martin Rolfs

Bold moves: Inevitable saccadic selection in visual short-term memory

publication date
February 2020
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Selection for visual short-term memory (vstm) provides a basis for many cognitive functions. Saccadic eye movements sway this selection in favor of stimuli previously seen at locations congruent with their target. In three experiments, we provide converging evidence that this saccadic selection is implemented as a fundamental, inevitable selection process, rather than a top-down strategy. In particular, benefits for congruent over incongruent items were largely constant across set sizes ranging from two to eight items (Experiment 1), showing that saccadic selection imposes priorities on vstm irrespective of memory load and is effective even when only few representations need to be maintained. Moreover, a decrement in performance for incongruent items occurred reliably, whether the congruent location contained a task-relevant item or an irrelevant noise patch (Experiment 2). Finally, saccadic selection was immune to a strong manipulation of the observer's attentional priorities (Experiment 3). Given the prevalence of saccades in natural vision, our results demonstrate a fundamental and ecologically relevant selection mechanism for vstm: Saccades systematically eliminate information seen at non-target locations, while information at the saccade target remains available to recall. This simple heuristic is effective in the absence of informative cues and may incapacitate voluntary selection mechanisms that are incongruent with ongoing movement plans.


In the present study, we observed that saccadic selection occurred in vstm, largely independently of memory load, irrespective of the task relevance of the stimulus seen at the saccade target, and irrespective of how likely it is that memory is probed at the saccade goal. Saccades therefore selectively protect memory at locations congruent with their target, and eliminate information at nontarget locations without compromise. Using this powerful and ecologically relevant selection mechanism, the visual system is equipped to make rapid choices in the absence of informative cues, deciding what to remember and what to forget.


Vision therapy is well worth the response, time and effort. Our Son had a hard time focusing and writing neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time if previously took. His abilities to focus improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent, we wanted learning to be fun for our Son, and vision therapy made this possible.

Amanda T.

Vision Therapy is well worth the expense, time and effort. Our son had a hard time focusing handwriting neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time it previously took his abilities to focus and improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent you wanted learning to be fun for our son and vision therapy made this possible.

Alexa H.

Vision Therapy has given or son the tools he needs to be able to scan and read the written word more effectively and efficiently.

He love working with John and these working sessions give him the motivation to gladly work on his homework assignments.

It amazed us to see the difference in the tracking of his eyes and along a line of it's from the beginning to the end of the treatment.

Dr. McBryar , Kristen and John  are all marvelous and we would recommend them to anyone I only wish that we would have found them sooner!

Charlotte M.

Prior to coming to the institute for vision development my son complained of daily headaches. Therapy has eliminated his headaches completely. I love knowing my son is able to learn pain-free for the rest of his life because of the work that has been done over just a few weeks in this office. He he absolutely loved coming that didn't even feel like going to a doctor or therapy. We are grateful for the relief he was able to find by coming here.

Thank you!

Olivia C.

Seems much less frustrated with life

Reads non-stop and fast

Spelling abilities have been hugely improved

Seems much more confident

Thank You!!!

Kelly O.

When we first came to the practice, my son did not have huge issues, but lots of small ones- trouble with reading, sports (hitting the baseball consistently), coordination, etc- that were not easily detectable,but when put together presented issues. The staff here were all very professional and loving towards him. While I was concerned in the reading, my son was concerned with the athletic side. Seeing improvement night off the bat gave him confidence that i have nor seen in him and made him want to not only Come to therapy, but also made him want to work hard. He has surpassed his grade level and above in reading and hit his first home run this year! Thank you!!!

Alice M.
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