Role of anticipation and prediction in smooth pursuit eye movement control in Parkinson's disease§


  • Funding agencies: The study was supported by a grant (Neurobiomedicine) from the medical board of the University Hospitals of Schleswig-Holstein (Lübeck, Germany).

  • Relevant conflicts of interest/financial

    disclosures: Nothing to report.

  • §

    Full financial disclosures and author roles may be found in the online version of this article.


Patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) have difficulties in the control of self-guided (i.e., internally driven) movements. The basal ganglia provide a nonspecific internal cue for the development of a preparatory activity for a given movement in the sequence of repetitive movements. Controversy surrounds the question of whether PD patients are capable of (1) anticipating (before an external trigger appears; i.e., anticipation) and (2) predicting movement velocity once a moving target shortly disappears from the visual scene (i.e., prediction). To dissociate between these two components, we examined internally driven (extraretinal generated) smooth pursuit eye movements in PD patients and age-matched healthy controls by systematically varying target blanking periods of a trapezoidally moving target in four paradigms (initial blanking, midramp blanking, blanking after a short ramp, and no blanking). Compared to controls, PD patients showed (1) decreased smooth pursuit gain (without blanking), (2) deficient anticipatory pursuit (prolonged pursuit initiation latency; reduced eye velocity before target onset in the early onset blanking paradigm), and (3) preserved extraretinal predictive pursuit velocity (midramp target blanking). Deficient anticipation of future target motion was not related to either disease duration or the general motor impairment (UPDRS). We conclude that PD patients have difficulties in anticipating future target motion, which may play a role for the mechanisms involved in deficient gait initiation and termination of PD. In contrast, they remain unimpaired in their capacity of building up an internal representation of continuous target motion. This may explain the clinical advantage of medical devices that use visual motion to improve gait initiation (e.g., “PD glasses”). © 2012 Movement Disorder Society