Cognitive processes involved in smooth pursuit eye movements: Behavioral evidence, neural substrate and clinical correlation

Kikuro Fukushima, Junko Fukushima, Tateo Warabi, Graham R. Barnes

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    Smooth-pursuit eye movements allow primates to track moving objects. Efficient pursuit requires appropriate target selection and predictive compensation for inherent processing delays. Prediction depends on expectation of future object motion, storage of motion information and use of extra-retinal mechanisms in addition to visual feedback. We present behavioural evidence of how cognitive processes are involved in predictive pursuit in normal humans and then describe neuronal responses in monkeys and behavioural responses in patients using a new technique to test these cognitive controls. The new technique examines the neural substrate of working memory and movement preparation for predictive pursuit by using a memory-based task in macaque monkeys trained to pursue (go) or not pursue (no-go) according to a go/no-go cue, in a direction based on memory of a previously presented visual motion display. Single-unit task-related neuronal activity was examined in medial superior temporal cortex (MST), supplementary eye fields (SEF), caudal frontal eye fields (FEF), cerebellar dorsal vermis lobules VI-VII, caudal fastigial nuclei (cFN), and floccular region. Neuronal activity reflecting working memory of visual motion direction and go/no-go selection was found predominantly in SEF, cerebellar dorsal vermis and cFN, whereas movement preparation related signals were found predominantly in caudal FEF and the same cerebellar areas. Chemical inactivation produced effects consistent with differences in signals represented in each area. When applied to patients with Parkinson's disease, the task revealed deficits in movement preparation but not working memory. In contrast, patients with frontal cortical or cerebellar dysfunction had high error rates, suggesting impaired working memory. We show how neuronal activity may be explained by models of retinal and extra-retinal interaction in target selection and predictive control and thus aid understanding of underlying pathophysiology. © 2013 Fukushima, Fukushima, Warabi and Barnes.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
    Issue number2013
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


    • Anticipation
    • Efference copy
    • Eye movements
    • Smooth pursuit
    • Species


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