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Effects of Procyclidine on Eye Movements in Schizophrenia.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Ulrich Ettinger
  • Veena Kumari
  • Elizabeth Zachariah
  • Adrian Galeas
  • Trevor J. Crawford
  • Philip J. Corr
  • David Taylor
  • Mrigendra Das
  • Tonmoy Sharma
Journal publication date12/2003
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Number of pages10
Original languageEnglish


Smooth pursuit eye movement (SPEM) and antisaccade deficits are observed in the schizophrenia spectrum and have been used to study the pathophysiology as well as the genetic basis of this condition. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine has been implicated in a number of cognitive processes thought to underlie SPEM and antisaccade performance. This study investigates effects on eye movements of procyclidine, an anticholinergic drug often administered to schizophrenic patients. A total of 13 patients completed a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design, receiving 15 mg procyclidine and placebo. Seven participants received procyclidine first and placebo second, six participants were tested in the reverse order. SPEM and antisaccade (as well as fixation and prosaccade) eye movements were recorded using infrared oculography. Results showed that procyclidine overall, relative to placebo, mildly worsened SPEM performance, as indicated by nonsignificantly reduced gain (p¼0.08) and increased frequency of intrusive anticipatory saccades during pursuit (p¼0.06). A significant interaction of group and order of administration indicated that procyclidine increased the rate of antisaccade reflexive errors only when administered first; the opposite pattern was observed when placebo was administered first, likely due to the operation of practice effects at second assessment. These findings indicate that acute administration of a clinically relevant dose of procyclidine leads to mild impairments in eye movement performance in schizophrenic patients, suggesting the need to consider this compound in oculomotor studies in schizophrenia. The action of this anticholinergic drug on oculomotor performance is consistent with the hypothesized role of the cholinergic system in the cognitive mechanisms of attention and working memory, processes thought to underlie SPEM and antisaccade performance. Effects of order of administration and practice on the antisaccade task suggest that these factors need to be taken into consideration in future pharmacological studies.