Adaptation of catch-up saccades during the initiation of smooth pursuit eye movements

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Apr;209(4):537-49. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2581-7. Epub 2011 Feb 19.


Reduction of retinal speed and alignment of the line of sight are believed to be the respective primary functions of smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements. As the eye muscles strength can change in the short-term, continuous adjustments of motor signals are required to achieve constant accuracy. While adaptation of saccade amplitude to systematic position errors has been extensively studied, we know less about the adaptive response to position errors during smooth pursuit initiation, when target motion has to be taken into account to program saccades, and when position errors at the saccade endpoint could also be corrected by increasing pursuit velocity. To study short-term adaptation (250 adaptation trials) of tracking eye movements, we introduced a position error during the first catch-up saccade made during the initiation of smooth pursuit-in a ramp-step-ramp paradigm. The target position was either shifted in the direction of the horizontally moving target (forward step), against it (backward step) or orthogonally to it (vertical step). Results indicate adaptation of catch-up saccade amplitude to back and forward steps. With vertical steps, saccades became oblique, by an inflexion of the early or late saccade trajectory. With a similar time course, post-saccadic pursuit velocity was increased in the step direction, adding further evidence that under some conditions pursuit and saccades can act synergistically to reduce position errors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*