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J Neurol Sci. 1993 Jun;116(2):152-64.

An investigation of horizontal combined eye-head tracking in patients with abnormal vestibular and smooth pursuit eye movements.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals, Cleveland, OH.
  • 2Case Western Res U, Cleveland, OH


We investigated the interaction of smooth ocular pursuit (SP) and the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) during horizontal, combined eye-head tracking (CEHT) in patients with abnormalities of either the VOR or SP movements. Our strategy was to apply transient stimuli that capitalized on the different latencies to onset of SP and the VOR. During CEHT of a target moving at 15 deg/sec, normal subjects and patients with VOR deficits all tracked the target with a gain close to 1.0. When the heads of normal subjects were suddenly and unexpectedly braked to a halt during CEHT, the eye promptly began to move in the orbit to track the target, but eye-in-orbit velocity transiently fell to about 60-70% of target velocity. In patients with deficient labyrinthine function, following the onset of the head brake, eye movements to track the target were absent, and SP movements were not generated until about 100 msec later. In patients with deficient SP, CEHT was superior to SP tracking with the head stationary; after the onset of the head brake, tracking eye movements were initiated promptly, but eye velocity was less than 50% of target velocity and increased only slightly thereafter. These results indicate that at least two mechanisms operate to overcome the VOR and allow gaze to track the target during CEHT: (1) the SP system provides a signal to cancel a normally-operating VOR (this cancellation signal is not needed by labyrinthine-deficient patients who have no VOR to cancel), and (2) a reduction of the gain of the VOR is achieved, an ability that is preserved even in patients with cerebral lesions that impair SP.

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