Purpose: To examine the latency of eye movements in three-dimensional space (saccade, vergence, and combined saccade-vergence) in children and adults.
Methods: Fifteen normal children (4.5-12 years of age) and 15 normal adults (22-44 years of age) were tested. A standard paradigm was used to elicit pure lateral saccades at far and close viewing distance, pure vergence (convergence and divergence), and saccade combined with vergence movements. Horizontal eye movements from both eyes were recorded simultaneously by the oculometer, a photoelectric device.
Results: The mean latency in saccades, vergence, and combined eye movements was longer in children than in adults; the variability of such latency values was also larger in children. There was a progressive decrease with age in mean latency. All latencies approached or reached adult levels at approximately 10 to 12 years of age. Latency of saccades at close viewing distance was shorter than that at far in both adults and children. Convergence latency was longer than divergence latency in adults and most of the children. Latency of components of combined movements was longer than that of corresponding pure movements. Children initiated combined movements by triggering the vergence component first, whereas adults did not show a dominant pattern. The percentage of synchronous start of the two components was significantly higher in adults.
Conclusions: Saccade- and vergence-triggering mechanisms are distinct and mature progressively and in parallel with age. The capacity for synchronization of the two components of combined eye movements develops more slowly and remains below adult level, even at the age of 12 years.