Influence of long-term optokinetic stimulation on eye movements of the rabbit

N. H. Barmack, B. J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Two kinds of optokinetic afternystagmus (OKAN) have been studied in rabbits: positive and negative OKAN. Positive OKAN is the persistence of eye movements evoked by optokinetic stimulation following the termination of the stimulus, with the slow phase of the eye movements in the same direction as the inducing stimulus. Negative OKAN is evoked by long duration optokinetic stimulation, and has a slow phase of opposite direction to the inducing stimulus. The stimulus conditions which are optimal for inducing and maintaining negative OKAN were characterized. Rabbits were placed in an optokinetic drum for periods of 12-96 h (with appropriate intervening periods for food and water). Eye movements were recorded during and after the termination of optokinetic stimulation. The optimum optokinetic stimulus velocity for the induction of negative OKAN was 5°/s. The minimum duration of stimulation for the induction of negative OKAN of maximum velocity was 48 h. Once induced, the slow phase of negative OKAN attained velocities of 50-100°/s. Three conditions of restraint of the rabbits were studied after negative OKAN was induced during the intervening periods when eye movements were not being recorded. These conditions were: (1) unrestrained (full freedom of movement) without visual stimulation (in a dark enclosure): (2) restrained (horizontal head and body movement prevented) without visual stimulation; and (3) restrained with visual stimulation (in the stationary optokinetic drum). Conditions 1 and 2 caused negative OKAN to dissipate within 24 h. Condition 3 caused negative OKAN to be maintained for more than 70 h. The velocity imbalance of the horizontal vestibuloocular reflex (HVOR) was measured at different times following the induction of negative OKAN. It provided a more sensitive index of the central imbalance which caused negative OKAN, than did spontaneous nystagmus. One of the consequences of optokinetic stimulation measured over a 16 h period was a decrease in the gain of the optokinetic reflex. This reduction in gain could represent a central adaptation to maintained stimulation which in the absence of continued optokinetic stimulation is expressed as a nystagmus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 22 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive plasticity
  • Eye movement
  • Optokinetic reflex
  • Rabbit
  • Vestibuloocular reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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