Saccade vigor and the subjective economic value of visual stimuli

Tehrim Yoon, Afareen Jaleel, Alaa A. Ahmed, Reza Shadmehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Decisions are made based on the subjective value that the brain assigns to options. However, subjective value is a mathematical construct that cannot be measured directly, but rather is inferred from choices. Recent results have demonstrated that reaction time, amplitude, and velocity of movements are modulated by reward, raising the possibility that there is a link between how the brain evaluates an option and how it controls movements toward that option. Here, we asked people to choose among risky options represented by abstract stimuli, some associated with gain (points in a game), and others with loss. From their choices we estimated the subjective value that they assigned to each stimulus. In probe trials, a single stimulus appeared at center, instructing subjects to make a saccade to a peripheral target. We found that the reaction time, peak velocity, and amplitude of the peripherally directed saccade varied roughly linearly with the subjective value that the participant had assigned to the central stimulus: reaction time was shorter, velocity was higher, and amplitude was larger for stimuli that the participant valued more. Naturally, participants differed in how much they valued a given stimulus. Remarkably, those who valued a stimulus more, as evidenced by their choices in decision trials, tended to move with shorter reaction time and greater velocity in response to that stimulus in probe trials. Overall, the reaction time of the saccade in response to a stimulus partly predicted the subjective value that the brain assigned to that stimulus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2161-2172
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Decision making
  • Motor control
  • Subjective value
  • Vigor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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