What Is the Neurological Basis of Our Vision?

Understanding smooth pursuit system and saccades in the neurological basis of vision.

What Is the Neurological Basis of Our Vision?
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

The human visual system is powered by a remarkable and intricate mechanism, which operates through a set of well-defined functions.

One of these mechanisms is the smooth pursuit system.

This system enables our eyes to smoothly track moving objects with remarkable precision and accuracy, resembling the movements seen in predators in the wild.

The pursuit motion of the eyes is adaptive and crucial for survival.

Saccades and Rapid Jumps

On the contrary, when our eyes are not fixated on a moving object, they engage in a series of quick, simultaneous jumps, known as saccades.

When scanning a room, our eyes don’t move smoothly across it; they jump from one point of interest to another.

This unique process of visual perception is a result of the brain's ability to process visual information efficiently, creating the apparent sensation of 'clicking' or 'jumping' as we look around.

Evolutionary Advantage

This visual behavior has been incredibly beneficial in terms of human evolution.

The ability to swiftly identify, assess, and react to potential threats or opportunities in the environment provided a crucial advantage for our ancestors.

The swift and accurate shifting of focus played a critical role in their survival in the wild and remains deeply ingrained in our visual system.

Neurological Basis

The 'clicking' or jumping of our eyes is a product of the way visual information is processed in the brain.

It involves the coordination of different parts of the brain, including the primary visual cortex, superior colliculus, and oculomotor system.

These neural circuits work together to facilitate the seamless transition between smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements, optimizing our visual perception based on the task at hand.

Digital Implications

Understanding the intricate workings of our visual system has significant digital implications.

It sheds light on how user interfaces and digital content can be optimized to align with the natural visual behavior of users.

By recognizing the prevalence of saccades and smooth pursuit, designers and developers can create more user-friendly interfaces and content layouts that accommodate how our eyes naturally process information.


The 'clicking' sensation in our eyes as we look around is a testament to the remarkable adaptability and efficiency of the human visual system.

It reflects the evolutionary advantages that have shaped our ability to swiftly navigate and engage with our surroundings.

Embracing and leveraging these inherent mechanisms can not only deepen our understanding of human cognition but also enhance the design and functionality of the digital world around us.