Vestibular catch-up saccades in labyrinthine deficiency
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During rapid head rotations, saccades ipsiversive with compensatory vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) slow phases may augment the deficient VOR and assist gaze stabilization in space. The present experiments compared these vestibular catch-up saccades (VCUSs) with visually and memory-guided saccades. To characterize VCUSs and their relationship to deficiency of the initial VOR, we delivered random, whole-body transients of 1000 and 2800°/s2 peak yaw acceleration around four different eccentric vertical axes in eight unilaterally and one bilaterally vestibulopathic subjects, as well as nine age-matched normal subjects. Eye and head movements were sampled at 1200 Hz using magnetic search coils. Subjects fixed targets at either 500 or 15 cm distance immediately before unpredictable onset of rotation in darkness. Under all testing conditions, normal subjects exhibited only compensatory vestibular slow phases and occasional anticompensatory quick phases. This behavior was also typical of unilaterally vestibulopathic subjects rotated contralesionally. When rotated ipsilesionally, however, vestibulopathic subjects had deficient slow-phase VOR gain with prolonged latency, and six of the nine exhibited saccadic movements in the compensatory direction (VCUSs). Higher head accelerations preferentially evoked VCUSs, but there were no preferred combinations of target distances and eccentric rotation axes. Peak velocities and durations of VCUSs increased with saccade amplitude. The latency distribution for VCUSs peaked around 70 ms, substantially shorter than reported for either visually guided express saccades or vestibular memory contingent saccades. The latency of each VCUS was highly correlated with the gaze error prior to that VCUS. The amplitude of VCUSs was calibrated to gaze position error, such that VCUSs reduced gaze error by an average of 37%. Thus when VOR slow-phase responses cannot compensate fully for head rotation, vestibular gaze position error can nevertheless calibrate the programming of VCUSs to augment the deficient VOR, much like catch-up saccades substitute for deficient visual pursuit.
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