Influence of gap and overlap paradigms on saccade latencies and vergence eye movements in seven-year-old children

Exp Brain Res. 2005 Jul;164(1):48-57. doi: 10.1007/s00221-005-2214-0. Epub 2005 Feb 23.


The latency of eye movements is influenced by the fixation task; when the fixation stimulus is switched off before the target presentation (gap paradigm) the latency becomes short and express movements occur. In contrast, when the fixation stimulus remains on when the target appears (overlap paradigm), eye movement latency is longer. Several previous studies have shown increased rates of express saccades in children; however the presence of an express type of latency for vergence and combined movements in children has never been explored. The present study examines the effects of the gap and the overlap paradigms on horizontal saccades at far (150 cm) and at close (20 cm) viewing distances, on vergence along the median plane, and on saccades combined with convergence or divergence in 15 normal seven-year-old children. The results show that the gap paradigm produced shorter latency for all eye movements than the overlap paradigm, but the difference was only significant for saccades at close viewing distances, for divergence (pure and combined), and for saccades combined with vergence. The gap paradigm produced significantly higher rates of express latencies for saccades at close viewing distances, for divergence, and for saccades combined with divergence; in contrast, the frequencies of express latencies for saccades at far viewing distances and for convergence (pure or combined) were similar in the gap and the overlap paradigms. Interestingly, the rate of anticipatory latencies (<80 ms) was particularly high for divergence in the gap paradigm. Our collective findings suggest that the initiation of saccades at close viewing distances and of divergence is more reflexive, particularly in the gap paradigm. The finding of frequent anticipatory divergence that occurs at similar rates for seven-year-old children (this study) and for adults (Coubard et al., 2004, Exp Brain Res 154:368-381) indicates that predictive initiation of divergence is dominant.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Child
  • Convergence, Ocular / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*