Unusual data shed new light on brain and inhibiting behavior

ndary object, van Donkelaar said. "My initial reaction was to just throw them out," he said. "In adult studies there are so few multiple saccades that they are statistically insignificant, maybe just 5 percent of the time and attributed to mistakes by the participants. But in these results, we were seeing multiple saccades in 25 percent of the trials. It was a complete surprise. So we started asking what was happening and what it means."

Looking at and comparing the four age groups let the researchers recognize a trend. The 4- to 6-year-old children had difficulty stopping themselves from looking at a secondary object placed into their peripheral vision. They also initiated multiple saccades at a rapid pace and in much higher levels than adults, and did so 150 milliseconds sooner than adults, "which in brain time is an eternity," van Donkelaar said.

"In the 4-to-6-year-old and the 7-to-9-year-old groups, there was a similar relationship. The younger kids had a lot of trouble keeping their eyes fixated on the original target, but that problem was much more muted in the 7- to 9-year olds," he said.

The data appear to be tapping into the relationship between the frontal cortex, where decision-making skills develop, and how a decision influences the brain stem that controls eye movements, van Donkelaar said. "What we think is happening is that these multiple saccade trials are initiated so quickly that the frontal cortex isn't playing much of a role in the signaling of the brain stems in younger children," he said.

So how do the new findings fit into the group's overall research? It is believed that for cerebral palsy patients the development of the cortex will be delayed well beyond childhood. Thus eye movements and focusing along with other components involved in motor control may explain why it's more difficult for a cerebral palsy patient than a healthy adult to successfully pick up an object and manipulate it. Simply put, the

Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Oregon

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