Rehearsal by eye movement improves visuomotor performance in cerebellar patients
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In order to assess the effect of rehearsal by eye movement alone on visuomotor performance, the eye movements and visually guided stepping of two cerebellar patients were monitored before and after a first and second batch of eye-movement rehearsals, in which patients made saccadic eye movements to the first 6 footfall targets (in a sequence of 18) whilst standing stationary at the start of the walkway. There was a marked improvement in oculomotor and locomotor performance following the second batch of eye-movement rehearsal. Both patients showed reduced occurrence of saccadic dysmetria, evident as a significant increase in the proportion of single to multi-saccadic eye movements (from 46 to 77% for DB and from 75 to 94% for TP). This was accompanied by increased regularity and accuracy of stepping in both patients, and decreased stance and double support phase durations (one patient only). Separate testing confirmed that these improvements in eye movements and stepping did not result from simple repetition of the task. This is the first demonstration of a technique – rehearsal by eye movement – that improves the visuomotor performance of cerebellar patients. It is compelling evidence for our proposal that during visually guided stepping the locomotor control system is dependent on assistance from the oculomotor control system.
KeywordsEye movements Saccades Cerebellum Locomotion Visuomotor Rehearsal Human
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