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Testing the vestibular-ocular reflexes: abnormalities of the otolith contribution in patients with neuro-otological disease.
  1. H Barratt,
  2. A M Bronstein,
  3. M A Gresty
  1. M.R.C. Neuro-Otology Unit, National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, London, UK.


    Conventional vestibular rotation testing with the head centered on the axis stimulates the semicircular canals evoking compensatory eye movements. If the head is placed forwards of the axis in an eccentric position the otoliths are also stimulated by a tangential linear acceleration acting laterally to the skull. In normal subjects the additional otolithic stimulus evokes compensatory eye movements with a higher gain than with head centred, particularly for high frequency (greater than 0.1 Hz) stimuli. The responses with head centred and eccentric in various patients with known/suspected neuro-otological abnormalities have been compared. Patients with vestibular neurinectomies who have asymmetrical head centred responses showed greater asymmetry with head eccentric at higher stimulus frequencies. Some patients with cerebellar lesions showed abnormally enhanced or depressed and asymmetrical responses with head eccentric in comparison with head centred responses, which could be normal. The enhancing effects could be specific to low frequency stimuli. All patients who showed abnormal responses with head eccentric also had positional nystagmus provoked by the gravity acceleration vector when the head was tilted laterally. The direction of the positional nystagmus with respect to the gravity vector was not necessarily the same as the direction of the effect on eye movements of lateral acceleration during eccentric oscillation. Patients with benign paroxysmal vertigo or chronic linear vertigo in whom otolithic abnormalities are suspected were not found to have abnormal responses with head eccentric. We conclude that this method of testing may be useful in elucidating pathophysiology but is not a decisive clinical test for the presence of disordered otolith function.

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