Visual function in Huntington's disease patients and presymptomatic gene carriers



Disturbances of visual cognition, visuomotor performance, and visual memory have been described frequently in Huntington's disease (HD). Early stage visual abnormalities could contribute to these deficits. We evaluated visual processing in 20 control subjects who were non-gene carriers at risk for HD, nine presymptomatic gene-positive subjects, and eight subjects with a recent diagnosis of Huntington's disease. Visual perceptual tests of contrast sensitivity and motion discrimination were used to probe early stage visual processing. Extraocular movements were evaluated in a neurologic examination, and the Digit Symbol test was used to test visual motor performance. Contrast sensitivity did not differ among the three groups. Motion discrimination was impaired in HD subjects but not in the presymptomatic gene carriers when compared to gene noncarriers. Among gene carriers, impaired motion discrimination performance was associated with poorer Digit Symbol performance and extraocular abnormalities. These findings suggest that the early stages of HD are associated with disturbances of motion perception as well as disruptions of visual motor and ocular motor performance. © 2003 Movement Disorder Society