Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Oculomotor abnormalities parallel cerebellar histopathology in autism
  1. Y Takarae1,
  2. N J Minshew2,
  3. B Luna2,
  4. J A Sweeney1
  1. 1University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
  2. 2University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 J A Sweeney, PhD
 Center for Cognitive Medicine, Department of Psychiatry (MC 913), University of Illinois at Chicago, 912 S. Wood St, Suite 235, Chicago, IL 60612-7327, USA;


Objective: To investigate cerebellar function in autism by measuring visually guided saccades.

Methods: A visually guided saccade task was performed by 46 high-functioning individuals with autism with and without delayed language acquisition, and 104 age and IQ matched healthy individuals.

Results: Individuals with autism had increased variability in saccade accuracy, and only those without delayed language development showed a mild saccadic hypometria. Neither autistic group showed a disturbance in peak saccade velocity or latency.

Conclusions: The observed saccadic abnormalities suggest a functional disturbance in the cerebellar vermis or its output through the fastigial nuclei, consistent with reported cerebellar histopathology in autism. The pattern of mild hypometria and variable saccade accuracy is consistent with chronic rather than acute effects of cerebellar vermis lesions reported in clinical and non-human primate studies, as might be expected in a neurodevelopmental disorder. The different patterns of oculomotor deficits in individuals with autism with and without delayed language development suggest that pathophysiology at the level of the cerebellum may differ depending on an individual’s history of language development.

  • language development
  • developmental disabilities
  • eye movements

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • This study was supported by the NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism HD35469, NIH grants NS33355and MH01433, and the National Alliance for Autism Research.

  • Competing interests: none declared