This study investigated long-term adaptations of smooth pursuit eye movement characteristics in high-level gymnasts and compared these responses to those of nonathletes. Gymnasts were selected because of their exceptional ability to spatially orient during fast, multiaxial whole body rotations. Participants were tested with standardized and supra-maximal sinusoidal smooth pursuit measurements. The results showed significantly higher gain values in top-level gymnasts, followed by young federal team gymnasts, followed by the nonathlete control group. By testing participants over the course of three years and also after periods of abstinence from training, changes to patterns of smooth pursuit over time are revealed. These results have interesting implications for understanding the characteristics of eye-movements in expert populations as well as understanding the general principles that underlie oculomotor adaptation.
von Lassberg is with the Institute for General Movement Sciences and Training Methodology, University of Leipzig, Germany, and the Medical Clinic, Department of Sports Medicine, University of Tübingen, Germany. Beykirch is with the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany. Campos is with the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany; the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto, Canada; York University, Centre for Vision Research, Toronto, Canada; and the University of Toronto, Department of Psychology, Toronto, Canada. Krug is with the Institute for General Movement Sciences and Training Methodology, University of Leipzig, Germany.