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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2006 Jan;28(1):145-66.

Disruption of reflexive attention and eye movements in an individual with a collicular lesion.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The superior colliculus (SC) plays a central role in the control of saccadic eye movements and has also been implicated in control of covert spatial attention. While there is a growing body of evidence from studies of awake behaving primates that supports these proposals, direct evidence from humans has been sparse. In the present study we tested a patient with thiamine deficiency and a lesion of the SC, who performed both eye movement tasks (prosaccades and antisaccades, with or without a gap) and a covert spatial attention task assessing inhibition of return (IOR). For eye movements, the gap effect was disrupted, and abnormal saccade metrics occurred, with reflexive eye movements being disrupted moreso than voluntary eye movements. Each of these effects resolved coincident with thiamine treatment. The covert attention task revealed a complete absence of IOR. The unequal disruption of voluntary and reflexive eye movements supports the idea that oculomotor responses can be generated in an independent fashion by frontal cortical and lower level neural systems. The role of the SC and other structures in these orienting processes is discussed.

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