Deficits in predictive smooth pursuit after mild traumatic brain injury

Minah Suh, Rachel Kolster, Ranjeeta Sarkar, Bruce McCandliss, Jamshid Ghajar et al.
Neuroscience Letters 2006 June 19, 401 (1): 108-13
Given that even mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) may produce extensive diffuse axonal injury (DAI), we hypothesized that mild TBI patients would show deficits in predictive smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM), associated with impaired cognitive functions, as these processes are dependent on common white matter connectivity between multiple cerebral and cerebellar regions. The ability to predict target trajectories during SPEM was investigated in 21 mild TBI patients using a periodic sinusoidal paradigm. Compared to 26 control subjects, TBI patients demonstrated decreased target prediction. TBI patients also showed increased eye position error and variability of eye position, which correlated with decreased target prediction. In all subjects, average target prediction, eye position error and eye position variability correlated with scores related to attention and executive function on the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-II). However, there were no differences between TBI and control groups in average eye gain or intra-individual eye gain variability, or in performance on the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), suggesting that the observed deficits did not result from general oculomotor impairment or reduced IQ. The correlation between SPEM performance and CVLT-II scores suggests that predictive SPEM may be a sensitive assay of cognitive functioning, including attention and executive function. This is the first report to our knowledge that TBI patients show impaired predictive SPEM and eye position variability, and that these impairments correlate with cognitive deficits.

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