Considerations on the mechanisms of alternating skew deviation in patients with cerebellar lesions

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32 Scopus citations


Alternating skew deviation, in which the side of the higher eye changes depending upon whether gaze is directed to the left or to the right, is a frequent sign in patients with posterior fossa lesions, including those restricted to the cerebellum. Here we propose a mechanism for alternating skews related to the otolith-ocular responses to fore and aft pitch of the head in lateral-eyed animals. In lateral-eyed animals the expected response to a static head pitch is cyclorotation of the eyes. But if the eyes are rotated horizontally in the orbit, away from the primary position, a compensatory skew deviation should also appear. The direction of the skew would depend upon whether the eyes were directed to the right (left eye forward, right eye backward) or to the left (left eye backward, right eye forward). In contrast, for frontal-eyed animals, skew deviations are counterproductive because they create diplopia and interfere with binocular vision. We attribute the emergence of skew deviations in frontal-eyed animals in pathological conditions to 1) an imbalance in otolithocular pathways and 2) a loss of the component of ocular motor innervation that normally corrects for the differences in polling directions and strengths of the various ocular muscles as the eyes change position in the orbit. Such a compensatory mechanism is necessary to ensure optimal binocular visual function during and after head motion. This compensatory mechanism may depend upon the cerebellum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-401
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Vestibular Research: Equilibrium and Orientation
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1996


  • OTR
  • cerebellum
  • skew
  • strabismus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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