Models of the Saccadic and Smooth Pursuit Systems

  • Jordan Pola
Part of the Topics in Biomedical Engineering International Book Series book series (TOBE)


Saccadic and smooth pursuit movements are among several eye movements that we make as we visually attend to objects in our environment. An important function of these two movements is to shift the direction of gaze (i.e., an imaginary line directed outward from the central fovea) to clearly view an object of interest. Both movements are concerned with the horizontal-vertical coordinates of objects. This is in contrast to vergence movements that deal with the proximal location of objects (see Chapter 11: Models of Saccadic-Vergence Interactions). A saccade is a rapid movement, perhaps the fastest of skeletal muscle movements, that quickly takes our direction of gaze from an initial point in space to some other point or target. A smooth pursuit movement is a slow to medium velocity movement that allows us to visually follow a moving target, and thus maintain our gaze on or near the target. It is generally thought that the stimulus for a saccade is target position with respect to the fovea, whereas the stimulus for smooth pursuit is target velocity relative to the retina. Saccades can occur without pursuit, and vice versa, but in many circumstances, the two types of movement act conjointly. For example, during visual following of a target moving at moderate to high velocity, smooth pursuit is typically supplemented by saccades. These saccades quickly reduce target offset from the fovea that develops when pursuit velocity is less than target velocity.


Superior Colliculus Smooth Pursuit Target Motion Target Velocity Forward Path 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan Pola
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Vision SciencesState University of New York, State College of OptometryNewYorkUSA

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