Saccadic corollary discharge underlies stable visual perception

James Cavanaugh, Rebecca A. Berman, Wilsaan Joiner, Robert H. Wurtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Saccadic eye movements direct the high-resolution foveae of our retinas toward objects of interest. With each saccade, the image jumps on the retina, causing a discontinuity in visual input. Our visual perception, however, remains stable. Philosophers and scientists over centuries have proposed that visual stability depends upon an internal neuronal signal that is a copy of the neuronal signal driving the eye movement, now referred to as a corollary discharge (CD) or efference copy. In the old world monkey, such a CD circuit for saccades has been identified extending from superior colliculus through MD thalamus to frontal cortex, but there is little evidence that this circuit actually contributes to visual perception. We tested the influence of this CD circuit on visual perception by first training macaque monkeys to report their perceived eye direction, and then reversibly inactivating the CD as it passes through the thalamus. Wefound that the monkey’s perception changed; during CD inactivation, there was a difference between where the monkey perceived its eyes to be directed and where they were actually directed. Perception and saccade were decoupled. We established that the perceived eye direction at the end of the saccade was not derived from proprioceptive input from eye muscles, and was not altered by contextual visual information. We conclude that the CD provides internal information contributing to the brain’s creation of perceived visual stability. More specifically, the CD might provide the internal saccade vector used to unite separate retinal images into a stable visual scene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-42
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 6 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Corollary discharge
  • Efference copy
  • FEF
  • Macaque
  • MD
  • Visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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