Saccade and vergence eye movements: a review of motor and premotor commands



Neuropsychology examines the relationship between cognitive activity and corresponding cerebral conditions. At one end, psychophysics meticulously describes the details of behavior. At the other, physiology records brain cell activity during cognitive tasks. Bridging the two, neuropsychology establishes the neural correlate of behaviour when correlation methods are used, and extends to the critical neural substrate when a causal relationship can be established. Here we revisit the Hering-versus-Helmholtz controversy on binocular coordination from the psychophysician's description of combined saccade-vergence eye movements to the neurophysiological recording of motor and premotor neurons of the oculomotor neural circuitry. Whilst neo-Heringian psychophysicians and physiologists have accumulated arguments for separate saccade and vergence systems, at both the behavioral and the neural premotor levels, neo-Helmholtzians have also provided evidence for monocular programmed eye movements and commands at the premotor level. Bridging the two, we conclude that Hering and Helmholtz were both right. Importantly, the latter's viewpoint brings to the fore the importance of adaptive processes throughout life, in view of the neurobiological constraints emphasized by the former.