Head position modulates optokinetic nystagmus

V. E. Pettorossi, A. Ferraresi, F. M. Botti, R. Panichi, N. H. Barmack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Orientation and movement relies on both visual and vestibular information mapped in separate coordinate systems. Here, we examine how coordinate systems interact to guide eye movements of rabbits. We exposed rabbits to continuous horizontal optokinetic stimulation (HOKS) at 5°/s to evoke horizontal eye movements, while they were statically or dynamically roll-tilted about the longitudinal axis. During monocular or binocular HOKS, when the rabbit was roll-tilted 30° onto the side of the eye stimulated in the posterior → anterior (P → A) direction, slow phase eye velocity (SPEV) increased by 3.5-5°/s. When the rabbit was roll-tilted 30° onto the side of the eye stimulated in the A → P direction, SPEV decreased to ∼2.5°/s. We also tested the effect of roll-tilt after prolonged optokinetic stimulation had induced a negative optokinetic afternystagmus (OKAN II). In this condition, the SPEV occurred in the dark, "open loop." Modulation of SPEV of OKAN II depended on the direction of the nystagmus and was consistent with that observed during "closed loop" HOKS. Dynamic roll-tilt influenced SPEV evoked by HOKS in a similar way. The amplitude and the phase of SPEV depended on the frequency of vestibular oscillation and on HOKS velocity. We conclude that the change in the linear acceleration of the gravity vector with respect to the head during roll-tilt modulates the gain of SPEV depending on its direction. This modulation improves gaze stability at different image retinal slip velocities caused by head roll-tilt during centric or eccentric head movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-152
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Gaze stability
  • Gravity
  • Head tilt
  • Optokinetic reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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