Smooth Pursuit and Visual Occlusion: Active Inference and Oculomotor Control in Schizophrenia

Abstract

This paper introduces a model of oculomotor control during the smooth pursuit of occluded visual targets. This model is based upon active inference, in which subjects try to minimise their (proprioceptive) prediction error based upon posterior beliefs about the hidden causes of their (exteroceptive) sensory input. Our model appeals to a single principle – the minimisation of variational free energy – to provide Bayes optimal solutions to the smooth pursuit problem. However, it tries to accommodate the cardinal features of smooth pursuit of partially occluded targets that have been observed empirically in normal subjects and schizophrenia. Specifically, we account for the ability of normal subjects to anticipate periodic target trajectories and emit pre-emptive smooth pursuit eye movements – prior to the emergence of a target from behind an occluder. Furthermore, we show that a single deficit in the postsynaptic gain of prediction error units (encoding the precision of posterior beliefs) can account for several features of smooth pursuit in schizophrenia: namely, a reduction in motor gain and anticipatory eye movements during visual occlusion, a paradoxical improvement in tracking unpredicted deviations from target trajectories and a failure to recognise and exploit regularities in the periodic motion of visual targets. This model will form the basis of subsequent (dynamic causal) models of empirical eye tracking measurements, which we hope to validate, using psychopharmacology and studies of schizophrenia.

Publication
PLoS ONE

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