Difference between vertical and horizontal saccades across the human lifespan

TitleDifference between vertical and horizontal saccades across the human lifespan
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsIrving, E., and L. Lillakas
JournalExperimental eye research
KeywordsAging, Development, Eye Movements, Horizontal saccades, Vertical saccades

The purpose of the study was to analyze vertical saccade parameters (latency, peak velocity, amplitude gain), and compare them to those of horizontal saccades in a cross-sectional study across the ages of the human lifespan. One hundred and thirty one participants (62 males) between the ages of 3 and 86 years made vertical prosaccades of 2–44° in response to a dot stimulus projected on a screen. A subset of participants also made horizontal prosaccades of 2–60° under the same conditions. The El-Mar (Downsview, Ontario, Canada) eye tracker was used to record binocular eye movements. Measures of saccadic latency, peak velocity and amplitude gain were calculated for each participant. Differences between saccade parameters for upward & downward saccades were calculated. Vertical saccade parameters were evaluated as a function of age and age related differences between vertical and horizontal saccade parameters were determined. There was no significant difference between upward and downward saccades and no effect of age for either latency or peak velocity. Downward saccades had significantly higher gains than upward saccades (p = 0.0001) and this difference increased significantly with age (p = 0.001). Vertical saccadic latency initially decreased from about 400 ms at 4 years of age, remained stable for a period of time and then increases again in later life. The lowest peak velocities were found in participants under 20 and over 70 years of age, while the highest peak velocities were seen in participants between 20 and 60 years of age. The majority of vertical saccades were hypometric. Saccadic amplitude gains varied depending on both the stimulus size (p = 0.0001) and age (p = 0.0001) of participants. Vertical saccades are most accurate for small amplitudes and for participants between 20 and 30 years of age. Vertical saccades had significantly longer latencies than horizontal saccades (p = 0.0001) but there was no significant effect of age. Vertical saccades had lower peak velocities than horizontal saccades in very young children but this difference decreased with age (p = 0.0015). Large vertical saccades were more hypometric than their horizontal counterparts across all ages. The observed differences in saccadic parameters could be related to the different areas in the brain used for saccadic generation, different periods and/or mechanisms of development and senescence within the visual system and brain and/or the effects of differential use. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd