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Brain. 1998 Aug;121 ( Pt 8):1479-95.

Horizontal or vertical optokinetic stimulation activates visual motion-sensitive, ocular motor and vestibular cortex areas with right hemispheric dominance. An fMRI study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Klinikum Grosshadern, Munich, Germany.


The differential effects of optokinetic stimulation with and without fixation suppression were analysed in an fMRI study in 10 right-handed healthy subjects. Horizontal and vertical small-field optokinetic stimulation activated the same multiple visual, ocular motor and vestibular cortical and subcortical areas in both hemispheres. The extent of activation in each hemisphere was independent of the stimulus direction. All activated areas representing cortical (occipitotemporal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, precentral and posterior median frontal gyrus, prefrontal cortex, medial part of the superior frontal gyrus) and subcortical (caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus and paramedian thalamus) ocular motor structures were activated during optokinetic stimulation as well as during fixation suppression of optokinetic nystagmus. However, the activation was significantly stronger with optokinetc nystagmus compared with fixation suppression. The only relatively increased activity during fixation suppression was seen in the medial part of the superior frontal gyrus (supplementary eye field) and the anterior cingulate gyrus. The anterior insula and the posterior insula (human homologue of the parieto-insular vestibular cortex) were activated during optokinetic nystagmus but not during fixation suppression. A significant right hemispheric predominance (regardless of stimulus direction) was found under both conditions in the visual motion-sensitive and ocular motor areas of the cortex, except the supplementary eye field and anterior cingulate gyrus. This was most prominent in the occipitotemporal cortex, but did not occur in the primary visual cortex and in subcortical ocular motor structures (putamen, globus pallidus and caudate nucleus). Thus, cortical and subcortical activation patterns did not differ for horizontal and vertical optokinetic stimulation, and there was distinct right-hemisphere dominance for visual motion-sensitive and cortical ocular motor areas and the thalamus. Fixation suppression of optokinetic nystagmus yielded four different results: (i) increased activation in the supplementary eye field and anterior cingulate gyrus; (ii) unchanged activation in the visual cortex; (iii) decreased activation in most of the ocular motor areas; and (iv) suppressed activation in the anterior and posterior insula and the thalamus. Activation of the parieto-insular vestibular cortex may be related to ocular motor function rather than self-motion perception.

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