Mental saccades

Your eyes are always moving, in quick, sharp, jumps, several times a second. These movements are called saccades. You need to make these visual jumps since you can only see well right at the center of our eyes (“fovea”). Saccades can be exploratory, or confirmatory in nature. Even babies make saccades (more slowly, though).

My mind is also always moving in quick, sharp jumps, several times a second. What is the name for these? I’ll call them saccades as well: mental saccades. Like oculomotor saccades, they are both exploratory and confirmatory. Some people might call them “thinking”, but I don’t think they are “thinking” any more than visual saccades are “seeing”.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these mental saccades, just as there’s nothing wrong with visual saccades, which are indispensable to our visual perception. But there’s certainly such a thing as excessive mental saccadic activity.

(An aside: it would not surprise me if there were common mechanisms behind visual saccades, mental saccades, and possibly other types of saccades. What would be the equivalent of an aural saccade?)

Meditation slows and damps mental saccading. As a result the limited energy available for new synapse formation, instead of being consumed in excessive mental saccading, can be applied to higher-level cortical areas underlying the development of new behaviors and insights.

One Response to “Mental saccades”

  1. donnie Says:

    its called ADD dude.

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