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Biol Psychiatry. 1998 Oct 15;44(8):685-9.

Differences in cerebral activation during smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements using positron-emission tomography.

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Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Abnormalities of smooth pursuit eye movements occur commonly in schizophrenia, but the pathophysiological significance of these abnormalities is unknown. To address this, the authors conducted a pilot study in which we examined differences in regional cerebral activation using positron-emission tomography (PET) in normal volunteers as they performed two types of eye movements.


Cerebral activation in 10 normal volunteers was studied using C15O2 PET while subjects tracked a visual target using smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements. A left-hand movement comparison task provided a physiologic landmark for verification of the location of the frontal eye fields (FEFs).


Subjects exhibited FEF activation during both smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements, which was greater in the latter. During smooth pursuit, subjects also exhibited increased cerebral activation in the left temporal-occipital border and left superior frontal cortex and decreased activation in medial superior parietal and insular regions relative to saccades. Other cortical visual and eye-movement brain regions also demonstrated differences in activation between the two visual tasks.


Significant fEF activation appears to underlie both smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements but may be more critical in the former. Dysfunction of the frontal lobe, and possibly of other areas in the pursuit pathway such as the temporo-occipital motion area, may contribute to observed eye-movement abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia.

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