Cortical control of optokinetic nystagmus in humans: A positron emission tomography study

Gaspare Galati, Sabina Pappata, Patrizia Pantano, Gian Luigi Lenzi, Yves Samson, Luigi Pizzamiglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to address the issue of physiological changes in the cerebral cortex associated to optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) in humans. We studied regional cerebral blood flow in eight volunteers during reflexive induction of OKN by a pattern of dots moving unidirectionally (toward the left side). We used two control conditions, with subjects passively viewing either stationary or incoherently moving dots. This paradigm was designed in order to differentiate the OKN-related activations from blood flow changes related to visual motion. When compared with the stationary condition, OKN activated a set of occipital areas known to be sensitive to visual motion. Bilateral activation was found in the striate cortex (V1) and the parieto-occipital fissure, while area V5, the intraparietal sulcus, and the pulvinar were activated only in the left hemisphere. When compared with incoherent motion, OKN activated the V1 and the parieto-occipital fissure bilaterally and the right lingual gyrus, while a signal decrease was observed in the V5 region in both hemispheres. No significant signal changes were found in areas implicated in saccades or in processing vestibular information. These results indicate that processing of OKN-related information is associated with neural activity in a specific set of visual motion areas and suggest that this network can be asymmetrically activated by a strictly unidirectional stimulation. Results are also discussed in terms of the specific kinds of OKN-related information processing subserved by each area in this network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-159
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Area V5
  • Human
  • Optokinetic nystagmus
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Visual motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cortical control of optokinetic nystagmus in humans: A positron emission tomography study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this