Patients with schizophrenia as well as individuals with high levels of schizotypy are known to have deficits in smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM). Here, we investigated, for the first time, the neural mechanisms underlying SPEM performance in high schizotypy. Thirty-one healthy participants [N = 19 low schizotypes, N = 12 high schizotypes (HS)] underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3T with concurrent oculographic recording while performing a SPEM task with sinusoidal stimuli at two velocities (0.2 and 0.4 Hz). Behaviorally, a significant interaction between schizotypy group and velocity was found for frequency of saccades during SPEM, indicating impairments in HS in the slow but not the fast condition. On the neural level, HS demonstrated lower brain activation in different regions of the occipital lobe known to be associated with early sensory and attentional processing and motion perception (V3A, middle occipital gyrus, and fusiform gyrus). This group difference in neural activation was independent of target velocity. Together, these findings replicate the observation of altered pursuit performance in highly schizotypal individuals and, for the first time, identify brain activation patterns accompanying these performance changes. These posterior activation differences are compatible with evidence of motion processing deficits from the schizophrenia literature and, therefore, suggest overlap between schizotypy and schizophrenia both on cognitive-perceptual and neurophysiological levels. However, deficits in frontal motor areas observed during pursuit in schizophrenia were not seen here, suggesting the operation of additional genetic and/or illness-related influences in the clinical disorder.
Keywords: eye movements; fMRI; personality; schizophrenia; schizotypal; smooth pursuit.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.