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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jan;93(1):627-32. Epub 2004 Sep 1.

Modulation of gaze-evoked blinks depends primarily on extraretinal factors.

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Department of Physiology, University of Wisconsin, 1300 University Ave., Rm. 127 SMI, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Gaze-evoked blinks are contractions of the orbicularis oculi (OO)-the lid closing muscle-occurring during rapid movements of the head and eyes and result from a common drive to the gaze and blink motor systems. However, blinks occurring during shifts of gaze are often suppressed when the gaze shift is made to an important visual stimulus, suggesting that the visual system can modulate the occurrence of these blinks. In head-stabilized, human subjects, we tested the hypothesis that the presence of a visual stimulus was sufficient, but not necessary, to modulate OO EMG (OOemg) activity during saccadic eye movements. Rapid, reorienting movements of the eyes (saccades) were made to visual targets that remained illuminated (visually guided trials) or were briefly flashed (memory-guided trials) at different amplitudes along the horizontal meridian. We measured OOemg activity and found that the magnitude and probability of OOemg activity occurrence was reduced when a saccade was made to the memory of the spatial location as well as to the actual visual stimulus. The reduced OOemg activity occurred only when the location of the target was previously cued. OOemg activity occurred reliably with spontaneous saccades that were made to locations with no explicit visual stimulus, generally, back to the fixation location. Thus the modulation of gaze-evoked OOemg activity does not depend on the presence of visual information per se, but rather, results from an extraretinal signal.

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