Visual Neuroscience

Research Article

Short latency ocular-following responses in man

R.S. Gellmana1, J.R. Carla2 and F.A. Milesa2

a1 Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary School of Medicine, Alberta, Canada

a2 Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda


The ocular-following responses elicited by brief unexpected movements of the visual scene were studied in human subjects. Response latencies varied with the type of stimulus and decreased systematically with increasing stimulus speed but, unlike those of monkeys, were not solely determined by the temporal frequency generated by sine-wave stimuli. Minimum latencies (70–75 ms) were considerably shorter than those reported for other visually driven eye movements. The magnitude of the responses to sine-wave stimuli changed markedly with stimulus speed and only slightly with spatial frequency over the ranges used. When normalized with respect to spatial frequency, all responses shared the same dependence on temporal frequency (band-pass characteristics with a peak at 16 Hz), indicating that temporal frequency, rather than speed per se, was the limiting factor over the entire range examined. This suggests that the underlying motion detectors respond to the local changes in luminance associated with the motion of the scene. Movements of the scene in the immediate wake of a saccadic eye movement were on average twice as effective as movements 600 ms later: post-saccadic enhancement. Less enhancement was seen in the wake of saccade-like shifts of the scene, which themselves elicited weak ocular following, something not seen in the wake of real saccades. We suggest that there are central mechanisms that, on the one hand, prevent the ocular-following system from tracking the visual disturbances created by saccades but, on the other, promote tracking of any subsequent disturbance and thereby help to suppress post-saccadic drift. Partitioning the visual scene into central and peripheral regions revealed that motion in the periphery can exert a weak modulatory influence on ocular-following responses resulting from motion at the center. We suggest that this may help the moving observer to stabilize his/her eyes on nearby stationary objects.

(Received January 16 1989)

(Accepted April 17 1990)


Reprint requests to: J.R. Carl, Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Building 10, Room 10C101, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.