Saccadic impairments in Huntington’s disease

  • A. Peltsch
  • A. Hoffman
  • I. Armstrong
  • G. Pari
  • D. P. MunozEmail author
Research Article


Huntington’s disease (HD), a progressive neurological disorder involving degeneration in basal ganglia structures, leads to abnormal control of saccadic eye movements. We investigated whether saccadic impairments in HD (N = 9) correlated with clinical disease severity to determine the relationship between saccadic control and basal ganglia pathology. HD patients and age/sex-matched controls performed various eye movement tasks that required the execution or suppression of automatic or voluntary saccades. In the “immediate” saccade tasks, subjects were instructed to look either toward (pro-saccade) or away from (anti-saccade) a peripheral stimulus. In the “delayed” saccade tasks (pro-/anti-saccades; delayed memory-guided sequential saccades), subjects were instructed to wait for a central fixation point to disappear before initiating saccades towards or away from a peripheral stimulus that had appeared previously. In all tasks, mean saccadic reaction time was longer and more variable amongst the HD patients. On immediate anti-saccade trials, the occurrence of direction errors (pro-saccades initiated toward stimulus) was higher in the HD patients. In the delayed tasks, timing errors (eye movements made prior to the go signal) were also greater in the HD patients. The increased variability in saccadic reaction times and occurrence of errors (both timing and direction errors) were highly correlated with disease severity, as assessed with the Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale, suggesting that saccadic impairments worsen as the disease progresses. Thus, performance on voluntary saccade paradigms provides a sensitive indicator of disease progression in HD.


Huntington’s disease Basal ganglia Motor control 



Special thanks to the Munoz Lab members for all of their editorial assistance, Don Brien for his role in preparing some of the figures for this paper, and Kim Moore for her assistance in data collection. This work was supported by a research operating grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research to D.P.M. and G.P.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Peltsch
    • 1
    • 5
  • A. Hoffman
    • 2
    • 5
  • I. Armstrong
    • 1
    • 5
  • G. Pari
    • 1
    • 3
  • D. P. Munoz
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre for Neuroscience StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PhysiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  3. 3.Department of MedicineQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  5. 5.CIHR Group in Sensory-Motor SystemsQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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