TMS perturbs saccade trajectories and unmasks an internal feedback controller for saccades

M Xu-Wilson, J Tian, R Shadmehr, and DS Zee (2011) Journal of Neuroscience          

Abstract  When we applied a single pulse of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to any part of the human head during a saccadic eye movement, the ongoing eye velocity was reduced starting as early as 45ms after the TMS, and lasted around 32ms.  The perturbation to the saccade trajectory was not due to a mechanical effect of the lid on the eye (e.g., from blinks).  When the saccade involved coordinated movements of both the eyes and the lids, e.g., in vertical saccades, TMS produced a synchronized inhibition of the motor commands to both eye and lid muscles.  The TMS induced perturbation of the eye trajectory did not show habituation with repetition, and was present in both pro- and anti-saccades.  Despite the perturbation, the eye trajectory was corrected within the same saccade with compensatory motor commands that guided the eyes to the target.  This within-saccade correction did not rely on visual input, suggesting that the brain monitored the oculomotor commands as the saccade unfolded, maintained a real time estimate of the position of the eyes, and corrected for the perturbation.  TMS disrupted saccades regardless of the location of the coil on the head, suggesting that the coil discharge engages a non-habituating startle-like reflex system.  This system affects ongoing motor commands upstream of the oculomotor neurons, possibly at the level of the superior colliculus or omnipause neurons.  Therefore, a TMS pulse centrally perturbs saccadic motor commands, which are monitored possibly via efference copy, and are corrected via internal feedback.