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Brain Cogn. 2008 Dec;68(3):229-40. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.08.014. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

The neural basis of smooth pursuit eye movements in the rhesus monkey brain.

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  • 1University of Tuebingen, Department of Cognitive Neurology, Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Otfried-Muller-Strasse 27, D-72076 Tuebingen, Germany.


Smooth pursuit eye movements are performed in order to prevent retinal image blur of a moving object. Rhesus monkeys are able to perform smooth pursuit eye movements quite similar as humans, even if the pursuit target does not consist in a simple moving dot. Therefore, the study of the neuronal responses as well as the consequences of micro-stimulation and lesions in trained monkeys performing smooth pursuit is a powerful approach to understand the human pursuit system. The processing of visual motion is achieved in the primary visual cortex and the middle temporal area. Further processing including the combination of retinal image motion signals with extra-retinal signals such as the ongoing eye and head movement occurs in subsequent cortical areas as the medial superior temporal area, the ventral intraparietal area and the frontal and supplementary eye field. The frontal eye field especially contributes anticipatory signals which have a substantial influence on the execution of smooth pursuit. All these cortical areas send information to the pontine nuclei, which in turn provide the input to the cerebellum. The cerebellum contains two pursuit representations: in the paraflocculus/flocculus region and in the posterior vermis. While the first representation is most likely involved in the coordination of pursuit and the vestibular-ocular reflex, the latter is involved in the precise adjustments of the eye movements such as adaptation of pursuit initiation. The output of the cerebellum is directed to the moto-neurons of the extra-ocular muscles in the brainstem.

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