Documenta Ophthalmologica

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 25–49 | Cite as

Foveation dynamics in congenital nystagmus II: Smooth pursuit

  • L. F. Dell'osso
  • J. Van Der Steen
  • R. M. Steinman
  • H. Collewijn


It has been shown that, during 5 seconds of fixation, an individual with congenital nystagmus (CN) can repeatedly (beat-to-beat) foveate (SD = 12.87 minarc) and maintain low retinal slip velocities (SD = 118.36 minarc/sec). Smooth pursuit data from several CN subjects showed that eye velocities during these foveation intervals approximated target velocity. Despite some claims that CN is caused by absent or “reversed” smooth pursuit, those with CN hardly ever experience oscillopsia or exhibit any accompanying symptoms of such deficits in pursuit; they are able to master sports requiring tracking of rapidly moving small objects (e.g. racquetball or handball). We developed and describe several new methods to accurately assess the function of smooth pursuit in an individual with typical idiopathic CN. We investigated the dynamics of CN foveation periods during smooth pursuit to test the hypothesis that eye velocities would match target velocities during these periods. Unity or near-unity instantaneous (beat-to-beat) pursuit gains of both experimenter-moved and subject-moved targets at peak velocities ranging from only a few deg/sec up to 210°/sec were measured. The dynamic neutral zone was found to shift oppositely to target direction by amounts proportional to the increase in target speed. Our methods proved that eye velocity is made to match target velocity during the foveation intervals and support the conclusion that smooth pursuit in individuals with CN is functioning normally in the presence of the CN oscillation. In addition, we hypothesize that the same fixation mechanism that prevents oscillopsia during fixation of stationary targets, also does so during pursuit.

Key words

Congenital nystagmus smooth pursuit 


General Terms


Congenital nystagmus


Catch-up saccade


Dynamic neutral zone


Static neutral zone


Standard deviation

CN Waveforms


Jerk with extended foveation


Jerk right (left)


Jerk right (left) with extended foveation


Pendular with foveating saccades


Pendular with left (right) foveating saccades


Pseudopendular with right foveating saccades


Right (left) pseudocycloid

Calculated (Statistical) Terms


Average gain


Gain calculated during the foveation period


Mean retinal error position during foveation period


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. F. Dell'osso
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • J. Van Der Steen
    • 5
  • R. M. Steinman
    • 4
  • H. Collewijn
    • 5
  1. 1.Ocular Motor Neurophysiology Laboratory, Veterans Affairs Medical CenterUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyCase Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of ClevelandCleveland
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical EngineeringCase Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of ClevelandCleveland
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MarylandCollege Park
  5. 5.Department of PhysiologyErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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