Age-related performance of human subjects on saccadic eye movement tasks

Exp Brain Res. 1998 Aug;121(4):391-400. doi: 10.1007/s002210050473.


We measured saccadic eye movements in 168 normal human subjects, ranging in age from 5 to 79 years, to determine age-related changes in saccadic task performance. Subjects were instructed to look either toward (pro-saccade task) or away from (anti-saccade task) an eccentric target under different conditions of fixation. We quantified the percentage of direction errors, the time to onset of the eye movement (saccadic reaction time: SRT), and the metrics and dynamics of the movement itself (amplitude, peak velocity, duration) for subjects in different age groups. Young children (5-8 years of age) had slow SRTs, great intra-subject variance in SRT, and the most direction errors in the anti-saccade task. Young adults (20-30 years of age) typically had the fastest SRTs and lowest intra-subject variance in SRT. Elderly subjects (60-79 years of age) had slower SRTs and longer duration saccades than other subject groups. These results demonstrate very strong age-related effects in subject performance, which may reflect different stages of normal development and degeneration in the nervous system. We attribute the dramatic improvement in performance in the anti-saccade task that occurs between the ages of 5-15 years to delayed maturation of the frontal lobes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*