Three-Dimensional Properties of Saccadic Eye Movements in Patients with Cerebellar Ataxia

  • M. Fetter
  • D. Anastasopoulos
  • T. Haslwanter


Eye muscles in humans are arranged such that, by appropriate activation, they allow for eye rotations with three degrees of freedom. Yet it has been known for more than a century that during fixation, while the head is stationary, the eyes do only utilize the horizontal and vertical degrees of rotational freedom while the torsional position of the line of sight is kept constant, i.e., during fixation, the eye is restricted to a two-dimensional (2-D) subspace of the three-dimensional (3-D) space of all possible orientations. This has been first described qualitatively by Donders (1847) who stated that the amount of torsion is fixed for all eye positions, independent of from where the eye has reached a particular position. The geometric consequence of this statement is that all eye positions lie in a 2-D surface. By observing the systematic tilt of afterimages in different gaze directions, Helmholtz was able to determine which 2-D subspace the eye is restricted to. He found, according to what Listing suggested, that the eye positions are not only confined to a surface but to a plane called Listing’s plane. This result, cited as Listing’s law (LL) by Helmholtz (1863), is most simply described if eye positions are expressed in terms of the axes of their rotational displacements from a particular eye position known as primary position and represented by angular position vectors. Then LL states that the eye assumes only those positions that can be reached from primary position by a single rotation about an axis in Listing’s plane, which lies orthogonal to the gaze direction in primary position.


Multiple System Atrophy Smooth Pursuit Cerebellar Ataxia Search Coil Torsional Position 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Fetter
    • 1
  • D. Anastasopoulos
    • 2
  • T. Haslwanter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyEberhard-Karls-UniversityTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity of IoanninaIoanninaGreece

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