Studies of visual function in behaving subjects require that stimuli be positioned reliably on the retina in the presence of eye movements. Fixational eye movements scatter stimuli about the retina, inflating estimates of receptive field dimensions, reducing estimates of peak responses, and blurring maps of receptive field subregions. Scleral search coils are frequently used to measure eye position, but their utility for correcting the effects of fixational eye movements on receptive field maps has been questioned. Using eye coils sutured to the sclera and preamplifiers configured to minimize cable artifacts, we reexamined this issue in two rhesus monkeys. During repeated fixation trials, the eye position signal was used to adjust the stimulus position, compensating for eye movements and correcting the stimulus position to place it at the desired location on the retina. Estimates of response magnitudes and receptive field characteristics in V1 and in LGN were obtained in both compensated and uncompensated conditions. Receptive fields were narrower, with steeper borders, and response amplitudes were higher when eye movement compensation was used. In sum, compensating for eye movements facilitated more precise definition of the receptive field. We also monitored horizontal vergence over long sequences of fixation trials and found the variability to be low, as expected for this precise behavior. Our results imply that eye coil signals can be highly accurate and useful for optimizing visual physiology when rigorous precautions are observed.
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