Spontaneity is a unique feature of the nervous system. One of the fundamentally critical and recognized forms of spontaneous motor activity is witnessed in the visuomotor system. Microsaccades, the miniature spontaneous eye movements, are critical for the visual perception. We hypothesized that microsaccades follow specific temporal patterns that are modulated by the basal ganglia output.
We used high-resolution video-oculography to capture microsaccades in 48 subjects (31 healthy and 17 with Parkinson's disease) when subjects were asked to hold their gaze on a straight-ahead target projected on white background. We analyzed spontaneous discharge patterns of microsaccades.
The first analysis considering coefficient of variation in intersaccadic interval distribution demonstrated that microsaccades in Parkinson's disease are more dispersed than the control group. The second analysis scrutinized microsaccades' temporal variability and revealed 3 distinct occurrence patterns: regular rhythmic, clustered, and randomly occurring following a Poisson-like process. The regular pattern was relatively more common in Parkinson's disease. Subthalamic DBS modulated this temporal pattern. The amount of change in the temporal variability depended on the DBS-induced volume of tissue activation and its overlap with the subthalamic nucleus. The third analysis determined the autocorrelations of microsaccades within 2-second time windows. We found that Parkinson's disease altered local temporal organization in microsaccade generation, and DBS had a modulatory effect.
The microsaccades occur in 3 temporal patterns. The basal ganglia are one of the modulators of the microsaccade spontaneity.