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Exp Brain Res. 2005 Jul;164(1):29-40. Epub 2005 Mar 8.

Saccadic instabilities and voluntary saccadic behaviour.

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Behavioural Brain Sciences, School of Psychology, Hills Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.


Primary gaze fixation is never perfectly stable but can be interrupted by involuntary, conjugate saccadic intrusions (SI). SI have a high prevalence in the normal population and are characterised by a horizontal fast eye movement away from the desired eye position, followed, after a variable duration, by a return saccade or drift. Amplitudes are usually below 1 degrees and they often exhibit a directional bias. The aim of the present study was to investigate the aetiology of SI in relation to saccadic behaviour. It was hypothesised that if SI resulted from deficits in the saccadic system (i.e. reduced inhibitory mechanisms), changes in voluntary saccade behaviour may be apparent and related to SI frequency. To examine this, synchrony (no gap), gap, overlap and antisaccade tasks were conducted on ten normal subjects. No significant correlations were found between SI frequency and voluntary saccade latencies, the percentage of express saccades, or the percentage of antisaccade errors. In addition, no significant correlations were found between SI directional biases and saccade latency directional biases, express saccade biases or antisaccade error biases. These results suggest that an underlying alteration to saccadic behaviour is unlikely to be involved in SI production, and that the SI command signal may arise from the influence of attention on an intact saccadic system. Specifically, descending corticofugal signals relating to attention level and orientation may alter the balance between fixation and saccade generation, so determining SI characteristics.

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