Effects of body orientation and rotation axis on pitch visual-vestibular interaction

Gilles Clément, Scott J. Wood, Corinna E. Lathan, Robert J. Peterka, Millard F. Reschke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Spatial transformations of the vestibular-optokinetic system must account for changes in head position with respect to gravity in order to produce compensatory oculomotor responses. The purpose of this experiment was to study the influence of gravity on the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) in darkness and on visual-vestibular interaction in the pitch plane in human subjects using two different comparisons: (1) Earth-horizontal axis (EHA) rotation about an upright versus a supine body orientation, and (2) Earth- horizontal versus Earth-vertical (EVA) rotation axes. Visual-vestibular responses (VVR) were evaluated by measuring the slow phase velocity of nystagmus induced during sinusoidal motion of the body in the pitch plane (at 0.2 Hz and 0.8 Hz) combined with a constant-velocity vertical optokinexic stimulation (at ± 36°/s). The results showed no significant effect on the gain or phase of the VOR in darkness or on the VVR responses at 0.8 Hz between EHA upright and EHA supine body orientations. However, there was a downward shift in the VOR bias in darkness in the supine orientation. There were systematic changes ia VOR and VVR between EHA and EVA for 0.2 Hz, including a reduced modulation gain, increased phase lead, and decreased bias during EVA rotation. The same trend was also observed at 0.8 Hz, but at a lesser extent, presumably due to the effects of eccentric rotation in our EVA condition and/or to the different canal input across frequencies. The change in the bias at 0.2 Hz between rotation in darkness and stimulus rotation with an optokinetic was greater than the optokinetic responses without rotation. During EHA, changes in head position relative to gravity preserve graviceptor input to the WR regardless of body orientation. However, the modifications in VVR gain and phase when the rotation axis is aligned with gravity indicate that this graviceptive information is important for providing compensatory eye movements during visual-vestibular interaction in the pitch plane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Vestibular Research: Equilibrium and Orientation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Optokinetic nystagmus
  • Otoliths
  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex
  • Visual-vestibular interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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