We present a clinical classification of central vestibular syndromes according to the three major planes of action of the vestibulo-ocular reflex: yaw, roll, and pitch. The plane-specific syndromes are determined by ocular motor, postural, and perceptual signs. Yaw plane signs are horizontal nystagmus, past pointing, rotational and lateral body falls, deviation of perceived straight-ahead to the left or right. Roll plane signs are torsional nystagmus, skew deviation, ocular torsion, tilts of head, body, and perceived vertical in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Pitch plane signs are upbeat/downbeat nystagmus, forward/backward tilts and falls, deviations of the perceived horizon. The thus defined vestibular syndromes allow a precise topographic analysis of brainstem lesions according to their level and side. Special emphasis is placed on the vestibular roll plane syndromes of ocular tilt reaction, lateropulsion in Wallenberg's syndrome, thalamic and cortical astasia and their association with roll plane tilt of perceived vertical. Recovery is based on a functionally significant central compensation of a vestibular tone imbalance, the mechanism of which is largely unknown. Physical therapy may facilitate this central compensation, but this has not yet been proven in prospective studies.