Vestibular perception of angular velocity in normal subjects and in patients with congenital nystagmus

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Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

A technique is described for the assessment of vestibular sensation. The two main goals of the study were (i) to compare the perception of angular velocity with the eye velocity output of the vestibulo-ocular reflex and (ii) to study vestibular function in patients with congenital nystagmus; this was needed since most previous studies, based on eye movement recordings, have been inconclusive. Subjects indicated their perceived angular velocity by turning by hand a wheel connected to a tachometer. The vestibular stimuli used consisted of sudden deceleration from rotation at a constant horizontal velocity of 90 degrees /s ('stopping' responses). Eye movements were recorded simultaneously with electro-oculography. In normal subjects the perceived angular velocity decayed from the moment of deceleration in an exponential fashion. The mean time constant of sensation decay was approximately 16 s. Eye movement velocity decayed with a similar exponential trajectory (time constant 16 s). Congenital nystagmus patients showed markedly shortened vestibular sensation (mean time constant 7 s). The following conclusions can be drawn: (i) the similarity of the eye velocity and perceptual responses suggests that these two systems receive a vestibular signal which has been similarly processed; (ii) the time constant of the responses indicates that this vestibular signal probably originates in the same brainstem 'velocity storage' integrator; (iii) the technique described is useful for clinical assessment of vestibular function, particularly in patients with ocular motility disorders; (iv) patients with congenital nystagmus have short vestibular time constants, which is probably due to changes induced in velocity storage processing by the persistent retinal image motion present in these patients.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1293-303
Number of pages11
JournalBrain
Volume122 ( Pt 7)
Publication statusPublished - 1999