Humans actively sample their environment with saccadic eye movements to bring relevant information into high-acuity foveal vision. Despite being lower in resolution, peripheral information is also available before each saccade. How the pre-saccadic extrafoveal preview of a visual object influences its post-saccadic processing is still an unanswered question. The current study investigated this question by simultaneously recording behavior and fixation-related brain potentials while human subjects made saccades to face stimuli. We manipulated the relationship between pre-saccadic "previews" and post-saccadic images to explicitly isolate the influences of the former. Subjects performed a gender discrimination task on a newly foveated face under three preview conditions: scrambled face, incongruent face (different identity from the foveated face), and congruent face (same identity). As expected, reaction times were faster after a congruent-face preview compared with a scrambled-face preview. Importantly, intact face previews (either incongruent or congruent) resulted in a massive reduction of post-saccadic neural responses. Specifically, we analyzed the classic face-selective N170 component at occipitotemporal electroencephalogram electrodes, which was still present in our experiments with active looking. However, the post-saccadic N170 was strongly attenuated following intact-face previews compared with the scrambled condition. This large and long-lasting decrease in evoked activity is consistent with a trans-saccadic mechanism of prediction that influences category-specific neural processing at the start of a new fixation. These findings constrain theories of visual stability and show that the extrafoveal preview methodology can be a useful tool to investigate its underlying mechanisms.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Neural correlates of object recognition have traditionally been studied by flashing stimuli to the central visual field. This procedure differs in fundamental ways from natural vision, where viewers actively sample the environment with eye movements and also obtain a low-resolution preview of soon-to-be-fixated objects. Here we show that the N170, a classic electrophysiological marker of the structural encoding of faces, also occurs during a more natural viewing condition but is strongly reduced due to extrafoveal preprocessing (preview benefit). Our results therefore highlight the importance of peripheral vision during trans-saccadic processing in building a coherent and stable representation of the world around us.
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