The saccadic eye movements of 20 naive adults, 7 naive teenagers, 12 naive children, and 4 trained adult subjects were measured using two single target saccade tasks; the gap and the overlap task.
In the gap task, the fixation point was switched off before the target occurred; in the overlap task it remained on until the end of each trial. The target position was randomly selected 4 degrees to the left or 4 degrees to the right of the fixation point.
The subjects were instructed to look at the target when it appeared, not to react as fast as possible. They were not given any feedback about their performance.
The results suggest that, in the gap task, most of the naive subjects exhibit at least two (the teenagers certainly three) clearly separated peaks in the distribution of the saccadic reaction times. The first peak occurs between 100 and 135 ms (express saccades), the second one between 140 and 180 ms (fast regular), and a third peak may follow at about 200 ms (slow regular). Other subjects did not show clear signs of two modes in the range of 100 to 180 ms, and still others did not produce any reaction times below 135 ms.
In the overlap task as well three or even more peaks were obtained at about the same positions along the reaction time scale of many, but not all subjects. Group data as well as those of individual subjects were fitted by the superposition of three gaussian functions.
Segregating the reaction time data into saccades that over- or undershoot the target indicated that express saccades almost never overshoot. The results are discussed in relation to the different neural processes preceding the initiation of visually-guided saccades.