Eye movement characteristics provide an objective measure of visual processing changes in patients with visual snow syndrome

Emma J. Solly, Meaghan Clough, Allison M. McKendrick, Paige Foletta, Owen B. White, Joanne Fielding

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Visual snow syndrome (VSS) is a poorly understood neurological disorder that features a range of disabling sensory changes. Visual processing changes revealed previously in VSS appear consistent with poor attentional control, specifically, with difficulty controlling environmentally driven shifts of attention. This study sought to confirm this proposal by determining whether these changes were similarly evident where attention is internally driven. Sixty seven VSS patients and 37 controls completed two saccade tasks: the endogenously cued saccade task and saccadic Simon task. The endogenously cued saccade task correctly (valid trial) or incorrectly (invalid trial) pre-cues a target location using a centrally presented arrow. VSS patients generated significantly shorter saccade latencies for valid trials (p = 0.03), resulting in a greater magnitude cue effect (p = 0.02), i.e. the difference in latency between valid and invalid trials. The saccadic Simon task presents a peripheral cue which may be spatially congruent or incongruent with the subsequent target location. Latencies on this task were comparable for VSS patients and controls, with a normal Simon effect, i.e. shorter latencies for saccades to targets spatially congruent with the preceding cue. On both tasks, VSS patients generated more erroneous saccades than controls towards non-target locations (Endogenously cued saccade task: p = 0.02, saccadic Simon task: p = 0.04). These results demonstrate that cued shifts of attention differentially affect saccade generation in VSS patients. We propose that these changes are not due to impairment of frontally-mediated inhibitory control, but to heightened saccade-related activity in visual regions. These results contribute to a VSS ocular motor signature that may provide clinical utility as well as an objective measure of dysfunction to facilitate future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9607
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2021

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