Reflexive saccades are driven by visual stimulation whereas voluntary saccades require volitional control. Behavioral and lesional studies suggest that there are two separate mechanisms involved in the generation of these two types of saccades. This study investigated differences in cerebral and cerebellar activation between reflexive and self-paced voluntary saccadic eye movements using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In two experiments (whole brain and cerebellum) using the same paradigm, differences in brain activations induced by reflexive and self-paced voluntary saccades were assessed. Direct comparison of the activation patterns showed that the frontal eye fields, parietal eye field, the motion-sensitive area (MT/V5), the precuneus (V6), and the angular and the cingulate gyri were more activated in reflexive saccades than in voluntary saccades. No significant difference in activation was found in the cerebellum. Our results suggest that the alleged separate mechanisms for saccadic control of reflexive and self-paced voluntary are mainly observed in cerebral rather than cerebellar areas.

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Experimental Brain Research
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Schraa-Tam, C., van Broekhoven, F., van der Geest, J., Frens, M., Smits, M., & van der Lugt, A. (2009). Cortical and cerebellar activation induced by reflexive and voluntary saccades. Experimental Brain Research, 192(2), 175–187. doi:10.1007/s00221-008-1569-4