To characterize vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) properties in the time window in which contributions by other systems are minimal, eye movements during the first 50-100 ms after the start of transient angular head accelerations ( approximately 1000 degrees /s(2)) imposed by a torque helmet were analyzed in normal human subjects. Orientations of the head and both eyes were recorded with magnetic search coils (resolution, approximately 1 min arc; 1000 samples/s). Typically, the first response to a head perturbation was an anti-compensatory eye movement with zero latency, peak-velocity of several degrees per second, and peak excursion of several tenths of a degree. This was interpreted as a passive mechanical response to linear acceleration of the orbital tissues caused by eccentric rotation of the eye. The response was modeled as a damped oscillation (approximately 13 Hz) of the orbital contents, approaching a constant eye deviation for a sustained linear acceleration. The subsequent compensatory eye movements showed (like the head movements) a linear increase in velocity, which allowed estimates of latency and gain with linear regressions. After appropriate accounting for the preceding passive eye movements, average VOR latency (for pooled eyes, directions, and subjects) was calculated as 8.6 ms. Paired comparisons between the two eyes revealed that the latency for the eye contralateral to the direction of head rotation was, on average, 1.3 ms shorter than for the ipsilateral eye. This highly significant average inter-ocular difference was attributed to the additional internuclear abducens neuron in the pathway to the ipsilateral eye. Average acceleration gain (ratio between slopes of eye and head velocities) over the first 40-50 ms was approximately 1.1. Instantaneous velocity gain, calculated as Veye(t)/Vhead(t-latency), showed a gradual build-up converging toward unity (often after a slight overshoot). Instantaneous acceleration gain also converged toward unity but showed a much steeper build-up and larger oscillations. This behavior of acceleration and velocity gain could be accounted for by modeling the eye movements as the sum of the passive response to the linear acceleration and the active rotational VOR. Due to the latency and the anticompensatory component, gaze stabilization was never complete. The influence of visual targets was limited. The initial VOR was identical with a distant target (continuously visible or interrupted) and in complete darkness. A near visual target caused VOR gain to rise to a higher level, but the time after which the difference between far and near targets emerged varied between individuals.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Journal of Neurophysiology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Collewijn, H., & Smeets, J. (2000). Early components of the human vestibulo-ocular response to head rotation: latency and gain. Journal of Neurophysiology. Retrieved from