Validity of Listing's law during fixations, saccades, smooth pursuit eye movements, and blinks

D. Straumann, D. S. Zee, D. Solomon, P. D. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


In its original formulation, Listing's law referred only to eye positions during steady fixation. In recent years, however, several studies have suggested that Listing's law can be extended to the movements of the eyes, including during saccades and smooth pursuit. A major problem in deciding whether or not Listing's law is obeyed during eye movements is the influence of any spontaneous fluctuations in torsional eye position. To try to settle this question, the three-dimensional position of the eyes (around the three axes: horizontal, vertical, and torsional) was recorded with dual search coils in five normal subjects during fixations, 20° saccades, blinks, and 20° pursuit movements with a 20°/s stimulus velocity. Eye movements across a wide range of horizontal positions were measured at different elevations of gaze during 11 min. Variability (as reflected in the standard deviation of torsional eye position) was used as a measure of the validity of Listing's law. After linear detrending single trials, each lasting 21.5 s, to remove the effects of drift over minutes, the reduction in the standard deviation of torsional position in tertiary eye positions was 54% assuming a planar and 58% assuming a second-order curved Listing's surface. We attributed this long-term fluctuation of the torsional signal to slippage of the coil on the eye. The remaining variability was mainly due to short-term fluctuation of eye torsion over seconds. The impact of hysteresis, associated with consecutive centrifugal-centripetal horizontal movements, on the variability of torsional eye position appeared negligible. Peak increases in the standard deviation from the fixation baseline after fitting individual Listing's planes for each trial were 348% during blinks, 141% during saccades, and 72% during pursuit movements(median value of five subjects). In conclusion, Listing's law during blinks, saccades, and pursuit is less valid than during fixations, which raises doubts about the existence of an internal 'Listing's law operator' for eye movements. Possibly, central eye velocity commands do not comply with Listing's law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996


  • Donders' law
  • Human
  • Listing's law
  • Three-dimensional eye movements
  • Torsion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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