Functional meaning of non-visual eye movements during verbal task fulfillment

M. Tatarenko, S. Danylov, M. Makarchuk


Introduction.Today we have a large amount of data about the existence of anatomically different neural systems in lexical processing of nouns and verbs. Eye movements’ detection during the verbal execution of tasks is one of the methods of studying the semantic processing, since eye activity represents many cognitive and emotional mental processes that occur in the human brain. Such movements of the eye Bacan (1969) called conjugate lateral eye movements [5,6]. However, Ehrlichman (2012) suggests using the term “non-visual” movements of the eyes, including lateral and vertical eye movements. These eye movements are not related to the perception of visual information and are observed in thinking or trying to recollect something [7]. It should be noted that today there are many questions about the importance of non-visual movements of the eyes.

Purpose. Investigate the relationship between non-visual movements of the human eye and functional brain asymmetry during the verbal task execution.

Methods.Eye movement direction tracking was conducted for 84 students during the verbal task execution via eye-tracker. The level of anxiety was assessed using the The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory self-assessment scale.

Results.The investigation revealed a statistically significant positive correlation between personal anxiety and eye movements (r = 0.23 for nouns, r = 0.25 for verbs, p≤0.05) in general group (n = 84) while selecting synonyms for nouns and verbs. A positive correlation was also found between personal anxiety and the movement of the eyes to the left while selecting synonyms for nouns (r = 0.47; p≤0.05) and verbs (r = 0.51; p≤0.05). A significant greater number of eye movements was found in selecting synonyms for nouns than for verbs (p≤0.05). In addition, the study has shown, there is a much larger amount of eye movements upward than down (p≤0.05) while selecting synonyms for words, regardless of the grammatical categories (noun or verb).

Originality.We investigated and analyzed the functional significance of non-visual eye movements during the verbal execution of tasks. Non-visual eye movements are considered as a phenomenon of biased activity and as a mechanism for reducing mental stress while processing visual information. The relationship between non-visual eye movements and personal anxiety is revealed.

Conclusion.The relationship of eye movements down and left is established with personal anxiety during the verbal execution of tasks. We have also found the predominance of up eyes movements while executing verbal tasks regardless of their direction in the selection of synonyms for nouns, rather than verbs.


non-visual eye movements; eye tracking; semantic processing; verbal tasks; anxiety


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