Neurophysiological aspects of eye and eyelid movements during blinking in humans

L.J. Bour*, M. Aramideh, B.W. Ongerboer de Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)
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The neural relationships between eyelid movements and eye movements during spontaneous, voluntary, and reflex blinking in a group of healthy subjects were examined. Electromyographic (EMG) recording of the orbicularis oculi (OO) muscles was performed using surface electrodes. Concurrently, horizontal and vertical eye positions were recorded by means of the double magnetic induction (DMI) ring method. In addition, movement of the upper eyelid was measured by a specially designed search coil, placed on the upper eyelid. The reflex blink was elicited electrically by supraorbital nerve stimulation either on the right or the left side. It is found that disconjugate oblique eye movements accompany spontaneous, voluntary as well as reflex blinking. Depending on the gaze position before blinking, the amplitude of horizontal and vertical components of the eye movement during blinking varies in a systematic way. With adduction and downward gaze the amplitude is minimal. With abduction the horizontal amplitude increases, whereas with upward gaze the vertical amplitude increases. Unilateral electrical supraorbital nerve stimulation at low currents elicits eye movements with a bilateral late component. At stimulus intensities approximately two to three times above the threshold, the early ipsilateral blink reflex response (R1) in the OO muscle can be observed together with an early ipsilateral eye movement component at a latency of ~15 ms. In addition, during the electrical blink reflex, early ipsilateral and late bilateral components can also be identified in the upper eyelid movement. In contrast to the late bilateral component of upper eyelid movement, the early ipsilateral component of upper eyelid movement appears to open the eye to a greater degree. This early ipsilateral component of upper eyelid movement occurs more or less simultaneously with the early eye movement component. It is suggested that both early ipsilateral movements following electrical stimulation do not have a central neural origin. Late components of the eye movements slightly precede the late components of the eyelid movement. Synchrony between late components of eyelid movements and eye movements as well as similarity of oblique eye movement components in different types of blinking suggest the existence of a premotor neural structure acting as a generator that coordinates impulses to different subnuclei of the oculomotor nucleus as well as the facial nerve nucleus during blinking independent from the ocular saccadic and/or vergence system. The profile and direction of the eye movement rotation during blinking gives support to the idea that it may be secondary to eyeball retraction; an extra cocontraction of the inferior and superior rectus muscle would be sufficient to explain both eye retraction and rotation in the horizontal vertical and torsional planes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-176
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes

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