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Deficits of smooth pursuit initiation in patients with degenerative cerebellar lesions.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • Carsten Moschner
  • Trevor J. Crawford
  • Wolfgang Heide
  • Peter Trillenberg
  • Detlef Kömpf
  • Christopher Kennard
Journal publication date11/1999
JournalBrain
Journal number11
Volume122
Number of pages12
Pages2147-2158
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

It is well known that cerebellar dysfunction can lead to an impairment of eye velocity during sustained pursuit tracking of continuously moving visual target. We have now studied the initiation of smooth pursuit eye movements towards predictable and randomized visual step-ramp stimuli in six patients with degenerative cerebellar lesions and six age-matched healthy controls using the magnetic scleral search-coil technique. In comparison with the control subjects, the cerebellar patients showed a significant delay of pursuit onset, and their initial eye acceleration was significantly decreased. These cerebellar deficits of pursuit initiation were similarly found in response to both randomized and predictable step-ramps, suggesting that predictive input does not compensate for cerebellar deficits in the initiation period of smooth pursuit. When we compared initial saccades during smooth tracking of foveofugal and foveopetal step-ramps, the absolute position error of these saccades did not significantly differ between patients and controls. In fact, none of the patients showed any bias of the saccadic position error that was related to the direction or velocity of the ongoing target motion. This work presents further evidence that the effect of cerebellar degeneration is not limited to the impaired velocity gain of steady-state smooth pursuit. Instead, it prolongs the processing time required to initiate smooth pursuit and impairs the initial eye acceleration. These two deficits were not associated with an abnormal assessment of target velocity and they were not modified by predictive control mechanisms, suggesting that cerebellar deficits of smooth initiation are not primarily caused by abnormal information on target motion being relayed to the cerebellum.