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Front. Neurol. | doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00640

Visual Tracking in Development and Ageing

 Jun Maruta1, 2, 3*, Lisa A. Spielman1,  Umesh Rajashekar1, 2 and  Jamshid Ghajar1, 2
  • 1Brain Trauma Foundation, United States
  • 2Neurosurgery, Stanford University, United States
  • 3Rehabilitation Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, United States

A moving target is visually tracked with a combination of smooth pursuit and saccades. Human visual tracking eye movement develops through early childhood and adolescence, and declines in senescence. However, the knowledge regarding performance changes over the life course is based on data from distinct age groups in isolation using different procedures, and thus is fragmented. We sought to describe the age-dependence of visual tracking performance across a wide age range and compare it to that of simple visuo-manual reaction time. We studied a cross-sectional sample of 143 subjects aged 7 to 82 years old (37% male). Eye movements were recorded using video-oculography while subjects viewed a computer screen and tracked a small target moving along a circular trajectory at a constant speed. For simple reaction time measures, series of key presses that subjects made in reaction to cue presentation on a computer monitor were recorded using a standard software. The positional precision and smooth pursuit velocity gain of visual tracking followed a U-shaped trend over age, with best performances achieved between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. A U-shaped trend was also found for mean reaction time in agreement with the existing literature. Inter-individual variability was evident at any age in both visual tracking and reaction time metrics. Despite the similarity in the overall developmental and ageing trend, correlations were not found between visual tracking and reaction time performances after subtracting the effects of age. Furthermore, while a statistically significant difference between the sexes was found for mean simple reaction time in the sample, a similar difference was not found for any of the visual tracking metrics. Therefore, the cognitive constructs and their neural substrates supporting visual tracking and reaction time performances appear largely independent. In summary, age is an important covariate for visual tracking performance, especially for a pediatric population. Since visual tracking performance metrics may provide signatures of abnormal neurological or cognitive states independent of reaction time-based metrics, further understanding of age-dependent variations in normal visual tracking behavior is necessary.

Keywords: Attention, EYE MOVEMENT, Ocular pursuit, pediatric, smooth pursuit, saccade

Received: 06 Jul 2017; Accepted: 15 Nov 2017.

Edited by:

Michael S. Salman, Children's Hospital Foundation, Canada

Reviewed by:

Hans VanDerSteen, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Larry A. Abel, University of Melbourne, Australia  

Copyright: © 2017 Maruta, Spielman, Rajashekar and Ghajar. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jun Maruta, Brain Trauma Foundation, New York, United States,