BackgroundPrior studies of oculomotor function in Parkinson's disease (PD) have either focused on saccades without considering smooth pursuit, or tested smooth pursuit while excluding saccades. The present study investigated the control of saccadic eye movements during pursuit tasksand assessed the quality of binocular coordinationas potential sensitive markers of PD.
MethodsObservers fixated on a central cross while a target moved toward it. Once the target reached the fixation cross, observers began to pursue the moving target. To further investigate binocular coordination, the moving target was presented on both eyes (binocular condition), or on one eye only (dichoptic condition).
ResultsThe PD group made more saccades than age-matched normal control adults (NC) both during fixation and pursuit. The difference between left and right gaze positions increased over time during the pursuit period for PD but not for NC. The findings were not related to age, as NC and young-adult control group (YC) performed similarly on most of the eye movement measures, and were not correlated with classical measures of PD severity (e.g., Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) score).
DiscussionOur results suggest that PD may be associated with impairment not only in saccade inhibition, but also in binocular coordination during pursuit, and these aspects of dysfunction may be useful in PD diagnosis or tracking of disease course.