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March 1977

Slow Eye Movements, With Absent Saccades, in a Patient With Hereditary Ataxia

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Hospitals, Iowa City (Dr Murphy), and the Department of Neurology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY (Dr Goldblatt).

Arch Neurol. 1977;34(3):191-195. doi:10.1001/archneur.1977.00500150077016

• Saccadic and smooth eye movements are controlled by separate mechanisms within the nervous system. We describe a patient with familial ataxia, considered to be a form of olivopontocerebellar degeneration, who is incapable of generating reflex or voluntary saccades. She can, however, move her eyes smoothly to the normal limits of lateral gaze, even when her head is prevented from moving. Latency before onset of movement is prolonged, and the velocity of movement is abnormally slow. We postulate that the degenerative process may have affected selectively those cells of the ventral paramedian pontine tegmentum responsible for the generation of saccades; and that the prolonged latency from presentation of a visual stimulus to the onset of movement is related to an inability to generate burst discharges needed to overcome the viscoelastic properties of the orbital tissues.

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