Differentiation between Vergence and Saccadic Functional Activity within the Human Frontal Eye Fields and Midbrain Revealed through fMRI
by Yelda Alkan, Bharat B. Biswal, Tara L. Alvarez
Eye movement research has traditionally studied solely saccade and/or vergence eye movements by isolating these systems within a laboratory setting. While the neural correlates of saccadic eye movements are established, few studies have quantified the functional activity of vergence eye movements using fMRI. This study mapped the neural substrates of vergence eye movements and compared them to saccades to elucidate the spatial commonality and differentiation between these systems.
The stimulus was presented in a block design where the ‘off’ stimulus was a sustained fixation and the ‘on’ stimulus was random vergence or saccadic eye movements. Data were collected with a 3T scanner. A general linear model (GLM) was used in conjunction with cluster size to determine significantly active regions. A paired t-test of the GLM beta weight coefficients was computed between the saccade and vergence functional activities to test the hypothesis that vergence and saccadic stimulation would have spatial differentiation in addition to shared neural substrates.
Segregated functional activation was observed within the frontal eye fields where a portion of the functional activity from the vergence task was located anterior to the saccadic functional activity (z>2.3; p<0.03). An area within the midbrain was significantly correlated with the experimental design for the vergence but not the saccade data set. Similar functional activation was observed within the following regions of interest: the supplementary eye field, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, lateral intraparietal area, cuneus, precuneus, anterior and posterior cingulates, and cerebellar vermis. The functional activity from these regions was not different between the vergence and saccade data sets assessed by analyzing the beta weights of the paired t-test (p>0.2).
Functional MRI can elucidate the differences between the vergence and saccade neural substrates within the frontal eye fields and midbrain.
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