The reduced detectability of a target T2 following discrimination of a preceding target T1 in the attentional blink (AB) paradigm is classically interpreted as a consequence of reduced attention to T2 due to attentional allocation to T1. Here, we investigated whether AB was related to changes in microsaccade rate (MSR). We found a pronounced MSR signature following T1 onset, characterized by MSR suppression from 200 to 328 ms and enhancement from 380 to 568 ms. Across participants, the magnitude of the MSR suppression correlated with the AB effect such that low T2 detectability corresponded to reduced MSR. However, in the same task, T1 error trials coincided with the presence of microsaccades. We discuss this apparent paradox in terms of known neurophysiological correlates of MS whereby cortical excitability is suppressed both during the microsaccade and MSR suppression, in accordance to poor T1 performance with microsaccade occurrence and poor T2 performance with microsaccade absence. Our data suggest a novel low-level mechanism contributing to AB characterized by reduced MSR, thought to cause suppressed visual cortex excitability. This opens the question of whether attention mediates T2 performance suppression independently from MSR, and if not, how attention interacts with MSR to produce the T2 performance suppression.
- FIXATIONAL EYE-MOVEMENTS
- SPATIAL ATTENTION
- individual differences
- rapid serial visual presentation
- saccadic suppression