Differential effects of reflex blinks on saccade perturbations in humans

J Neurophysiol. 2010 Mar;103(3):1685-95. doi: 10.1152/jn.00788.2009. Epub 2010 Feb 3.


Studies in both humans and monkeys have indicated that blinks affect the central programming of saccades. In this study, we compared the influence of two types of reflex blinks on the trajectories and kinematics of memory-guided saccades in human subjects. We found that electrical stimulation of the supraorbital nerve shortly before or during a saccade briefly halts or decelerates the eye in midflight. After this short interruption, the eye always resumed its course and reached the target location in the absence of visual feedback. Air puff stimuli produced significant decreases in mean eye velocity too, but in addition to these changes in saccade kinematics, they produced much larger and more variable perturbations of the two-dimensional saccade trajectories. Even so, the endpoints of blink-perturbed saccades obtained under both test conditions remained as accurate and as precise as those observed in the control condition. We hypothesize that the reduction in mean eye velocity is not caused by a trigeminal reactivation of brain stem omnipause neurons but could instead arise from a trigeminal transient inhibition of saccade-related activity in the midbrain superior colliculus (SC). These findings support the theory that blink-perturbed saccades are programmed as slow, but straight, saccades onto which blink-related eye movements are superimposed. This linear superposition occurs downstream from the SC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blinking / physiology*
  • Calibration
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Eyelids / physiology
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology
  • Young Adult