April 26, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Gaze Anchoring Keeps Your Eye on the Ball

Without this automatic ability in the eye,
vision would be awash in distracting information.


The eyes do far more than collect photons. They have cells that preprocess the incoming light before it gets sent to the optic nerve. Then, there are systems in the brain that sort and filter the data to concentrate on useful information. Without these systems in place working together, our sense of vision would be awash in distracting information (see Evolution News, 21 April 2022). Now, researchers at New York University have learned more about how a batter’s eyes can stay on the ball, with a phenomenon they call “gaze anchoring.” The simple act of reaching for a nearby object requires this ability.

How Do Our Eyes Stay Focused on What We Reach For? Researchers Uncover How Our Gaze is “Anchored” in the Brain (New York University, 20 April 2022).

Amazing FactsKeeping our eyes focused on what we reach for, whether it be an item at the grocery store or a ground ball on the baseball field, may appear seamless, but, in fact, is due to a complex neurological process involving intricate timing and coordination. In a newly published study in the journal Nature, a team of researchers sheds additional light on the machinations that ensure we don’t look away from where we are reaching.

This time the scientists don’t claim to “shed light on evolution” but rather to shed additional light on machinations (machine-like engineering operations) in our sense of vision. How does gaze anchoring work? It involves parts of the brain communicating with each other as the eyeballs temporarily stop their automatic movements.

Their results showed that, during gaze anchoring, neurons in the part of the brain—the parietal reach region—used for reaching work to inhibit neuron activity in the part of the brain—the parietal saccade region—used for eye movements. This suppression of neuron firing serves to inhibit eye movement, keeping our eyes centered on the target of our reach, which then enhances the accuracy of what we’re grasping for. Importantly, the scientists note, the effects were tied to patterns of brain waves at 15-25 Hz, called beta waves, that organize neural firing across the different regions of the brain.

Aren’t you glad you don’t have to think about it? The eye-brain system does it all for you. The press release uses an analogy to another system where numerous players coordinate their actions under a conductor. We have “attention and executive control that orchestrate natural behaviors like coordinated looking and reaching.”

The authors’ paper is behind a paywall at Nature, but neither the Abstract nor the press release refer to evolution.

> Source: Hagen and Pesaran, “Modulation of inhibitory communication coordinates looking and reaching.” Nature 20 April 2022.

After yesterday’s dumpster load of Darwinism, it’s nice to see real scientists doing empirical work about a highly precise orchestrated system without telling us it evolved.


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Categories: Amazing Facts, Human Body

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