Influence of eye and head position on the vestibulo-ocular reflex

M. Fetter, T. C. Hain, D. S. Zee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

For the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) to function properly, namely to ensure a stable retinal image under all circumstances, it should be able to take into account varying eye positions in the orbit and varying orientations of the head with respect to the axis about which it is rotating. We tested this capability by quantifying the gain and the time constant of the horizontal component of the VOR during rotation about an earth vertical axis when the line of sight (optical axis) was moved out of the plane of head rotation - either by rotating the eyes up or down in the orbit or by pitching the head up or down with respect to earth-horizontal. In either case the gain of the horizontal component of the VOR was attenuated precisely by the cosine of the angle made between the optical axis and the plane of head rotation. Furthermore, if the head was pitched up or down but the eye rotated oppositely in the orbit so as to keep the line of sight in the plane of head rotation the gain of the horizontal component of the VOR was the same value as with the head and eyes both straight ahead. In contrast, the time constant of the VOR varied only as a function of the orientation of the head and not as a function of eye position in the orbit. During rotation about an earth vertical axis, the time constant was longest (about 18 s) when the head was pitched forward to place the lateral canals near earth-horizontal and shortest (about 11 s) when the head was pitched backward to place the vertical canals near earth-horizontal. Finally, since during rotation in yaw the pattern of stimulation of the lateral and vertical semicircular canals varies with different head orientations one can use measurements of the horizontal component of the VOR, under varying degrees of pitch of the head, to calculate the relative ability of the lateral and vertical semicircular canals to transduce head velocity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-216
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Volume64
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 1986

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Keywords

  • Eye movement
  • Otolith organs
  • Semicircular canals
  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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