We investigated neural correlates of target detection in the electroencephalogram (EEG) during a free viewing search task and analyzed signals locked to saccadic events. We adopted stimuli similar to ones we used previously to study target detection in serial presentations of briefly flashed images. Subjects performed the search task for multiple random scenes while we simultaneously recorded 64 channels of EEG and tracked subjects’ eye position.
For each subject we identified target saccades (TS) and distractor saccades (DS). For TS, these were always saccades which were directly to the target and were followed by a correct behavioral response (button press); for DS, we used saccades in correctly responded trials having no target (these were 28% of the trials). We sampled the sets of TS and DS saccades such that they were equalized/matched for saccade direction and duration, ensuring no information in the saccade properties themselves was discriminating for their type. We aligned EEG to the saccade and used logistic repression (LR), in the space of the 64 electrodes, to identify components discriminating a TS from a DS on a single-trial basis. Specifically, LR was applied to narrow time windows (50ms) and discrimination was done for windows having varying latencies relative to the saccade. We found that there is significant discriminating activity in the EEG both before and after the saccade—average discriminability across 7 subjects was AUC=0.64, 80 ms before the saccade, and AUC=0.68, 60 ms after the saccade (p[[lt]]0.01 established using bootstrap resampling). Between these time periods we saw substantial reduction in discriminating activity (for 7 subjects, mean AUC=0.59). We conclude that that we can identify neural signatures of detection both before and after the saccade, indicating that the subject anticipates where the target is before he/she makes the last saccade to foveate and respond.