Effect of chronic exposure to methylmercury on eye movements in Cree subjects

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2004 Feb;77(2):97-107. doi: 10.1007/s00420-003-0480-3. Epub 2003 Dec 5.


Objectives: To examine the effect of chronic exposure to methylmercury on eye movements (pursuit, fixation and dynamic saccades) in Cree subjects from Northern Quebec.

Methods: Eye movements were recorded in a group of Cree subjects ( n=36) exposed chronically to methylmercury, a group of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) ( n=21), and a group of control subjects ( n=30) by use of an infrared eye-movement recording system. Pursuit, fixation, and prompted and remembered saccades were recorded twice for both eyes in the horizontal and vertical axes. Blinks were removed, and data were calibrated.

Results: Analyses of variance revealed significant differences for all characteristics examined for fixation and pursuit, and for some characteristics in dynamic saccades. These differences arose sometimes from the Cree group, sometimes from the PD group and sometimes from both groups.

Conclusions: The results suggest that eye movements of Cree subjects exposed to methylmercury are qualitatively different from those of both control subjects and patients with PD. Comparisons between more-exposed and less-exposed Cree subjects matched for age with control subjects also showed significant differences for fixation, pursuit and dynamic saccades. The average scores of the more-exposed group were clearly separated from those of the less-exposed and control groups for characteristics of fixation and pursuit, and for accuracy and sharpness of prompted saccades. This trend was less clear in other results where a possible effect of mercury exposure could not be distinguished from a possible cultural effect. Further studies should focus on the most discriminating characteristics for the Cree group, such as measures of accuracy and coherence in all tests and sharpness of saccades.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Eye Movements / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Methylmercury Compounds / toxicity*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Quebec


  • Methylmercury Compounds