Brainstem pathways and premotor control

Kathleen E. Cullen and Marion R. Van Horn

in The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539789
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Brainstem pathways and premotor control

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  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



The oculomotor system is one of the better understood motor systems. In contrast to locomotion—the control of posture or limb control—the structural features of the oculomotor system are mechanically simple. The oculomotor plant includes the eyeball, the extraocular muscles, and the surrounding orbital tissue. In particular, the eye has little inertia and rotates about a point that is relatively fixed such that there is only one ‘joint’ to consider. Moreover, there is no stretch reflex and activity in each of the three antagonistic muscles pairs is reciprocally related. As a result, a relatively simple relationship between motoneuron discharge and eye movements has facilitated our understanding of the central premotor circuitry that underlies the generation of oculomotor behaviours. In this chapter, the neural pathways that control eye movements are considered with a focus on the generation of appropriate motor commands at the level of the brainstem.

Keywords: premotor pathways; oculomotor system; eye movement; brainstem; extraocular muscle

Article.  13296 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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