December 1976

Smooth Pursuit Eye Movements, Attention, and Schizophrenia

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Drs Holzman and Levy) and Surgery, Section of Otolaryngology (Dr Proctor), University of Chicago.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976;33(12):1415-1420. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770120019001

• In previous studies, smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM) have been shown to be disordered in about 70% of schizophrenics and about 45% of their first-degree relatives. In this report, the role of attention in these eye movements is addressed in three experiments (using as subjects schizophrenics, their firstdegree relatives, and normals administered chloral hydrate) that recruit focused attention to the task. These studies show that voluntary attention in the form of inattention, "heedless negligence," or failure to cooperate, is not the specific attentional quality that is disordered in SPEM of schizophrenics and their relatives. Rather, the data both indicate that nonvoluntary attending is specifically disordered in these persons, and implicate a neurophysiological substrate that can be described as a failure of inhibitory, synchronizing or integrating systems which may be located in the brain stem.