What clinical disorders tell us about the neural control of saccadic eye movements

Brain. 2007 Jan;130(Pt 1):10-35. doi: 10.1093/brain/awl309. Epub 2006 Nov 21.


Saccades are rapid eye movements that redirect the fovea from one object to another. A great deal has been learned about the anatomy and physiology of saccades, making them an ideal system for studying the neural control of movement. Basic research on normal eye movements has greatly increased our understanding of saccadic performance, anatomy and physiology, and led to a large number of control system models. These models simulate normal saccades well, but are challenged by clinical disorders because they often do not incorporate the specific anatomical and physiological substrates needed to model clinically important abnormalities. Historically, studies of saccadic abnormalities in patients have played a critical role in understanding the neural control of saccades because they provide information that complements basic research and thus restricts hypotheses to those that are biologically plausible. This review presents four examples of clinical disorders (slow saccades, interrupted saccades, high-frequency saccadic oscillations and macrosaccadic oscillations) that have provided insights into the neurobiology of saccades, have driven the development of new models, and have suggested an explanation or treatment for these disorders. We raise general questions for both scientists and clinicians that will assist in their efforts to understand the neural control of movement, improve diagnostic criteria and develop new treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Eye / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Saccades / physiology*