Reduced duration of a visual motion aftereffect in congenital nystagmus
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Congenital nystagmus (CN) is a primarily horizontal, involuntary, conjugate eye movement which can be observed soon after birth or during the first half-year of life. Individuals with CN rarely complain of oscillopsia. Using a motion aftereffect (MAE), we investigated if individuals with CN have abnormalities in motion perception and if any such abnormality could be due to nystagmus or to compensatory mechanisms to avoid oscillopsia.
In task A, patients (n= 10) and control subjects (n= 10) indicated the direction, duration and relative velocity of MAEs. The subjects binocularly viewed a high contrast, grey scale grating (0.23 cyc/deg; visual angle: 18.3 deg) moving upward or downward at 1, 3, and 6 deg/sec for 60 sec. Vertical optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) was monitored. In task B, patients (n=8) and control subjects (n=8) viewed similar spatial frequency gratings (visual angle: 40.7 degs; 0.5, 0.2, 0.08 cyc/deg) which moved at 4, 10, and 16 deg/sec for 60 sec. In task C, five control subjects, with induced vestibular nystagmus, viewed a grating (0.2 cyc/deg; visual acuity: 28.5 deg), moving upward for 40 sec. In all three tasks, after adaptation with the moving grating, subjects viewed the then static grating and reported the duration and direction of the MAE. One CN patient and eight control subjects reported MABs at all three test velocities in task A. When patients exhibited OKN, the gain was close to one, as in the control group. In task B, seven of the eight patients and all of the control subjects had MABs at the faster adaptation velocities. CN patients had less MAEs at an adaptation velocity of 4 deg/sec and when MAEs were observed, the duration of the illusory motion was reduced by approximately 48%. Control subjects, with induced vestibular nystagmus, reported MAEs at 4 deg/sec (task C).
These findings indicate that nystagmus cannot be the only factor accounting for the suppression of motion perception and suggest that compensatory mechanisms used to avoid oscillopsia contribute to the differences found between the groups.
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