We compared the ability of eight normal subjects and 15 patients with brainstem or cerebellar disease to follow a moving visual stimulus smoothly with either the eyes alone or with combined eye-head tracking. The visual stimulus was either a laser spot (horizontal and vertical planes) or a large rotating disc (torsional plane), which moved at one sinusoidal frequency for each subject. The visually enhanced vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) was also measured in each plane. In the horizontal and vertical planes, we found that if tracking gain (gaze velocity/target velocity) for smooth pursuit was close to 1, the gain of combined eye-hand tracking was similar. If the tracking gain during smooth pursuit was less than about 0.7, combined eye-head tracking was usually superior. Most patients, irrespective of diagnosis, showed combined eye-head tracking that was superior to smooth pursuit; only two patients showed the converse. In the torsional plane, in which optokinetic responses were weak, combined eye-head tracking was much superior, and this was the case in both subjects and patients. We found that a linear model, in which an internal ocular tracking signal cancelled the VOR, could account for our findings in most normal subjects in the horizontal and vertical planes, but not in the torsional plane. The model failed to account for tracking behaviour in most patients in any plane, and suggested that the brain may use additional mechanisms to reduce the internal gain of the VOR during combined eye-head tracking. Our results confirm that certain patients who show impairment of smooth-pursuit eye movements preserve their ability to smoothly track a moving target with combined eye-head tracking.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology