Rapid eye movements (saccades) were examined in 7 patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) and a matched group of normal control subjects. The effect of instructional and stimulus conditions used
to elicit saccades was examined using 3 experimental paradigms. Eye movements directly elicited by a novel peripheral target were unimpaired in patients with PD as compared with control subjects. Saccades to a remembered target location, however, were dysmetric in the PD group and showed a characteristic multistepping pattern. The PD impairment was not caused by a loss of information on target location since their final eye position was close to the target at all eccentricities. Peak velocity, duration, and latency did not distinguish between PD patients and controls. These results support the view that for saccades which are not directly elicited by a visual target there is a neural pathway that can be distinguished from structures involved in the generation of visually elicited (or 'reflexive') saccades. The finding that in PD
saccades to a remembered target are selectively impaired suggests that structures in the basal ganglia play a crucial role in this alternative pathway.