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Exp Brain Res. 2000 May;132(2):243-59.

Functional adaptation of reactive saccades in humans: a PET study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


It is known that the saccadic system shows adaptive changes when the command sent to the extraocular muscles is inappropriate. Despite an abundance of supportive psychophysical investigations, the neurophysiological substrate of this process is still debated. The present study addresses this issue using H2(15)O positron emission tomography (PET). We contrasted three conditions in which healthy human subjects were required to perform saccadic eye movements toward peripheral visual targets. Two conditions involved a modification of the target location during the course of the initial saccade, when there is suppression of visual perception. In the RAND condition, intra-saccadic target displacement was random from trial-to-trial, precluding any systematic modification of the primary saccade amplitude. In the ADAPT condition, intra-saccadic target displacement was uniform, causing adaptive modification of the primary saccade amplitude. In the third condition (stationary, STAT), the target remained at the same location during the entire trial. Difference images reflecting regional cerebral-blood-flow changes attributable to the process of saccadic adaptation (ADAPT minus RAND; ADAPT minus STAT) showed a selective activation in the oculomotor cerebellar vermis (OCV; lobules VI and VII). This finding is consistent with neurophysiological studies in monkeys. Additional analyses indicated that the cerebellar activation was not related to kinematic factors, and that the absence of significant activation within the frontal eye fields (FEF) or the superior colliculus (SC) did not represent a false negative inference. Besides the contribution of the OCV to saccadic adaptation, we also observed, in the RAND condition, that the saccade amplitude was significantly larger when the previous trial involved a forward jump than when the previous trial involved a backward jump. This observation indicates that saccade accuracy is constantly monitored on a trial-to-trial basis. Behavioral measurements and PET observations (RAND minus STAT) suggest that this single-trial control of saccade amplitude may be functionally distinct from the process of saccadic adaptation.

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