Compensatory eye movements (CEMs) stabilize the field of view enabling visual sharpness despite self-induced motion or environmental perturbations. The vestibulocerebellum makes it possible to adapt these reflex behaviors to perform optimally under novel circumstances that are sustained over time. Because of this and the fact that the eye is relatively insensitive to fatigue and musculoskeletal aging effects, CEMs form an ideal motor system to assess aging effects on cerebellar motor learning. In the present study, we performed an extensive behavioral examination of the impact of aging on both basic CEMs and oculomotor-based learning paradigms spanning multiple days. Our data show that healthy aging has little to no effect on basic CEM performance despite sensory deterioration, suggesting a central compensatory mechanism. Young mice are capable of adapting their oculomotor output to novel conditions rapidly and accurately, even to the point of reversing the direction of the reflex entirely. However, oculomotor learning and consolidation capabilities show a progressive decay as age increases.

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Neurobiology of Aging: age-related phenomena, neurodegeneration and neuropathology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Gutierrez-Castellanos, N, Winkelman, B.H.J, Tolosa-Rodriguez, L, de Gruijl, J.R, & de Zeeuw, C.I. (2013). Impact of aging on long-term ocular reflex adaptation. Neurobiology of Aging: age-related phenomena, neurodegeneration and neuropathology, 34(12), 2784–2792. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.06.012