Development from reflexive to controlled eye movements

Beatriz Luna and Katerina Velanova

in The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539789
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Development from reflexive to controlled eye movements

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



Reflexive, stimulus-driven eye movements mature early in development while voluntary, cognitively-driven eye movements continue to improve through adolescence. In this chapter, we describe developmental improvements in reflexively-guided eye movements, such as visually-guided saccades, fixation, and pursuit eye movements, and then developmental improvements in eye movements guided by voluntary control, such as antisaccades and memory-guided saccades. The latency to initiate both reflexive and voluntary eye movements decreases with age suggesting enhanced speed of information processing (e.g. Irving et al., 2006; Luna et al., 2004). The ability to voluntarily control eye movements, reflected in the ability to inhibit a reflexive eye movement and guide saccades using spatial working memory, continues to improve through adolescence (e.g. Fischer et al., 1997; Fukushima et al., 2000; Klein and Foerster, 2001; Luna et al., 2004). Further, neuroimaging studies demonstrate a transition to use of more distributed brain circuitries in adulthood that may support better cognitive control of eye movements (e.g. Luna et al., 2001; Scherf et al., 2006). Brain maturational processes such as myelination and synaptic pruning, which permit efficient top-down modulation of behaviour, may underlie age-related enhancements in the efficiency of eye movement control.

Keywords: eye movements; voluntary control; neurobehavioural processes; brain maturational processes; fixation system

Article.  12416 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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