Ocular motor syndromes of the brainstem and cerebellum

Curr Opin Neurol. 2008 Feb;21(1):22-8. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0b013e3282f4097d.


Purpose of review: The brainstem and cerebellum contain many neuronal types that play a critical role in eye movement control. In a physiological approach, understanding how these neuronal assemblies cooperate provides strong insight into general brain functions. Furthermore, eye movements provide an interesting model for understanding neural mechanisms of sensorimotor learning, and a knowledge of the mechanisms underlying oculomotor plasticity is essential for correctly diagnosing and effectively managing patients. Finally, knowledge of the ocular motor syndromes frequently helps localize the pathological abnormality.

Recent findings: We review the recently published works dealing with the physiological organization and pathology of slow and rapid eye movements at a brainstem and cerebellar level.

Summary: The main recent findings of great interest for clinical practice or research concern the physiopathology of head shaking nystagmus, downbeat nystagmus and oculopalatal tremor; the neural substrates of three-dimensional control of eye movements and of optokinetic nystagmus; the understanding of saccade generation and of its consequences on physiological and pathological eye oscillations; and, finally, the physiological basis of saccadic adaptation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / pathology*
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / physiopathology