Similarity in the response of smooth pursuit and manual tracking to a change in the direction of target motion

Kevin C. Engel, John H. Anderson, John F. Soechting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Subjects were asked to track, with their eyes or their hand, the movement of a target that maintained a constant speed and made a single, abrupt change in direction. The tracking speed and direction of motion after the step change in target direction were compared for the eyes and the hand. After removal of the saccades from the eye movement records, it was found that in both cases, there was a slow rotation from the initial direction to the new direction. For the eyes and the hand, it was found that this change in direction of movement occurred at a similar rate that was proportional to the magnitude of the abrupt change in target direction. This was further described by comparing the direction of pursuit tracking with the response of a second-order system to a step input. In addition, it was found that the speed of manual and pursuit tracking was modulated in a similar manner, with a reduction in tracking speed occurring before the change in tracking direction. This reduction in speed following the change in the direction of target motion was very similar for the hand and the eye, despite the large difference in the inertias of the two systems. Taken together, these data suggest that the neural mechanisms for smooth pursuit and manual tracking have common functional elements and that musculoskeletal dynamics do not appear to be a rate-limiting factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1149-1156
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


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