Vergence-mediated modulation of the human horizontal vestibulo-ocular reflex is eliminated by a partial peripheral gentamicin lesion

Americo A. Migliaccio, Lloyd B. Minor, John P. Carey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The angular vestibulo-ocular reflex normally has an increased response during vergence on a near target. Surgical unilateral vestibular deafferentation reduces the horizontal vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) in response to far target viewing and eliminates this vergence effect. Intratympanic gentamicin treatment reduces VOR gain during far viewing, but the reduction is less severe than that after unilateral vestibular deafferentation. We sought to determine how gentamicin would affect vergence-mediated modulation of the VOR. The VOR in response to passive head impulses in the horizontal plane while viewing a far (124 cm) or near (15 cm) target was evaluated in 11 subjects following intratympanic gentamicin treatment. Three of these subjects had also been tested immediately prior to receiving gentamicin. The impulses were low amplitude (∼20°), high velocity (∼150°/s), high acceleration (∼3,000°/s2) horizontal head rotations administered manually by the investigator. Binocular eye and head velocity were recorded using the scleral search coil technique. The VOR gain was defined as eye velocity divided by inverted head velocity. Prior to intratympanic gentamicin, the VOR gain during rotations to either side was symmetric and showed the same vergence-mediated increase. Following gentamicin, head impulses towards the untreated side yielded VOR gains of 0.91±0.12 while viewing a far target and 1.27±0.22 while viewing a near target, an increase of 33%. Head impulses towards the treated side produced a hypometric VOR with no increase between far and near viewing. The average latency of the VOR was 7.6±2.5 ms towards the untreated side for either near or far viewing and 20.7±13.1 ms towards the treated side for either near or far viewing. Our findings show that a peripheral lesion caused by gentamicin does not ablate the VOR but does eliminate a component of the vestibular signal that is necessary for vergence-mediated modulation of the VOR. Gentamicin has preferential toxicity for the hair cells in the central zone of the crista, where irregular afferents predominate. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that irregular afferents provide the necessary signal for vergence-mediated modulation of the VOR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-98
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Gentamicin
  • Hair cells
  • Irregular afferents
  • Meniere's disease
  • Vestibular
  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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