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Both saccadic and manual responses in the amblyopic eye of strabismics are irreducibly delayed.

J Vis. 2018 03 01;18(3):20

Authors: Gambacorta C, Ding J, McKee SP, Levi DM

Abnormal early visual development can result in a constellation of neural and visual deficits collectively known as amblyopia. Among the many deficits, a common finding is that both saccadic and manual reaction times to targets presented to the amblyopic eye are substantially delayed when compared to the fellow eye or to normal eyes. Given the well-known deficits in contrast sensitivity in the amblyopic eye, a natural question is whether the prolonged reaction times are simply a consequence of reduced stimulus visibility. To address this question, in Experiment 1 we measure saccadic reaction times (RT) to perifoveal stimuli as a function of effective stimulus contrast (i.e., contrast scaled by the amblyopic eye’s contrast threshold). We find that when sensory differences between the eyes are minimized, the asymptotic RTs of our anisometropic amblyopes were similar in the two eyes. However, our results suggest that some strabismic amblyopes have an irreducible delay at the asymptote. That is, even when the sensory differences of the stimulus were accounted for, these observers still had large interocular differences (on average, 77 ms) in saccadic reaction time. In Experiment 2, to assess the role of fixation on saccadic reaction time we compared reaction time with and without a foveal target (the “gap effect”). Our results suggest that, while removing the fixation target does indeed speed up reaction time in the amblyopic eye, the gap effect is similar in the two eyes. Therefore, the gap effect does not eliminate the irreducible delay in the amblyopic eye. Finally, in Experiment 3 we compared the interocular differences in saccadic and manual reaction times in the same observers. This allowed us to determine the relationship between the latencies in the two modalities. We found a strong correlation between the differences in saccadic and manual reaction times; however, the manual RT difference is about half that of saccadic RT, suggesting that there may be two separable effects on saccadic reaction time: (a) a central problem with directing actions to a target, related to disengagement of attention at the fovea, which results in delays in both saccadic and manual reaction times, and (b) a further delay in saccadic reaction times because of the motor refractory period from a previous saccade or microsaccade, made in an attempt to stabilize the amblyopic eye of strabismics.

PMID: 29677336 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]