Q 1.10. Anatomy and Physiology of the Ocular Motor System


  1. Extraocular Muscles (EOMs):

    • These six muscles (superior rectus, inferior rectus, medial rectus, lateral rectus, superior oblique, and inferior oblique) control eye movements.
    • Their coordinated actions allow for precise gaze control, tracking, and fixation.
    • The oculomotor nerve (cranial nerve III) innervates most EOMs, except for the superior oblique (trochlear nerve) and lateral rectus (abducens nerve).
  2. Motor Pathways:

    • The motor cortex plays a central role in eye movement control.
    • Signals from the motor cortex travel to the brainstem, where they synapse with cranial nerve nuclei.
    • The pons contains the abducens nucleus (for lateral rectus) and the oculomotor nucleus (for other EOMs).
    • The medulla houses the trochlear nucleus (for superior oblique).
  3. Cerebellum:

    • The cerebellum fine-tunes eye movements by adjusting EOM firing rates.
    • It ensures smooth pursuit, saccades, and vestibulo-ocular reflexes.
  4. Eye Movements:

    • Saccades: Rapid, voluntary eye movements that shift gaze between targets.
    • Smooth Pursuit: Tracking moving objects smoothly.
    • Vergence Movements: Convergence (inward) or divergence (outward) of eyes during near vision tasks.
    • Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex (VOR): Stabilizes gaze during head movements.

Impairment Syndromes

  1. Peripheral Ocular Motor Disorders:

    • Affect the EOMs or their innervation.
    • Examples:
      • Strabismus: Misalignment of eyes due to EOM imbalance.
      • Nystagmus: Involuntary rhythmic eye movements.
      • Ptosis: Drooping eyelid due to weakness of the levator palpebrae superioris muscle.
  2. Central Ocular Motor Disorders:

    • Involve brainstem, cerebellum, or motor cortex dysfunction.
    • Examples:
      • Gaze Palsy: Inability to move eyes in specific directions.
      • Internuclear Ophthalmoplegia (INO): Impaired adduction due to medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF) lesion.
      • Ocular Motor Apraxia: Difficulty initiating voluntary eye movements.
      • One-and-a-half syndrome: a rare but intriguing condition that affects eye movements. Imagine it as a quirky dance routine performed by our nerves:
        1. The Players:

          • Conjugate Gaze Palsy: One eye can’t move sideways at all.
          • Internuclear Ophthalmoplegia (INO): The other eye can only move outward (like a half step).
        2. The Choreography:

          • Picture a duo on the dance floor—one partner frozen, the other swaying outward.
          • The culprit? A lesion in the brainstem, disrupting the eye movement relay.
        3. The Diagnosis:

          • When you see this dance combo, think one-and-a-half syndrome.
          • Common causes include strokes, tumors, or multiple sclerosis.
        4. Clinical Clues:

          • Diplopia (double vision), blurred vision, and eye wobbling.
          • Nystagmus (eye jerking) during lateral movements.

Clinical Relevance

Accurate diagnosis of abnormal eye movements relies on understanding the purpose, properties, and neural substrates of different functional classes of eye movement. Keep exploring and learning—the ocular motor system holds many secrets waiting to be unraveled!









Verified by Dr. Petya Stefanova