Microsaccades have a steady rate of occurrence during maintained gaze fixation, which gets transiently modulated by abrupt sensory stimuli. Such modulation, characterized by a rapid reduction in microsaccade frequency followed by a stronger rebound phase of high microsaccade rate, is often described as the microsaccadic rate signature, owing to its stereotyped nature. Here, we investigated the impacts of stimulus polarity (luminance increments or luminance decrements relative to background luminance) and size on the microsaccadic rate signature. We presented brief, behaviorally irrelevant visual flashes consisting of large or small, white or black stimuli over an otherwise gray image background. Both large and small stimuli caused robust early microsaccadic inhibition, but postinhibition microsaccade rate rebound was significantly delayed and weakened for large stimuli when compared with small ones. Critically, small black stimuli were associated with stronger modulations in the microsaccade rate signature than small white stimuli, particularly in the postinhibition rebound phase, and black stimuli also amplified the incidence of early stimulus-directed microsaccades. Our results demonstrate that the microsaccadic rate signature is sensitive to stimulus size and polarity, and they point to dissociable neural mechanisms underlying early microsaccadic inhibition after stimulus onset and later microsaccadic rate rebound at longer times thereafter. These results also demonstrate early access of oculomotor control circuitry to diverse sensory representations, particularly for momentarily inhibiting saccade generation with short latencies.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Microsaccade rate is transiently reduced after sudden stimulus onsets, and then strongly rebounds before returning to baseline. We explored the influence of stimulus polarity (black vs. white) and size on this "rate signature." Large stimuli caused more muted microsaccadic rebound than small ones, and microsaccadic rebound was also differentially affected by black versus white stimuli, particularly with small stimuli. These results suggest dissociated neural mechanisms for microsaccadic inhibition and rebound in the microsaccadic rate signature.
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