Effect of gaze direction on neck muscle activity during cervical rotation

Exp Brain Res. 2005 Dec;167(3):422-32. doi: 10.1007/s00221-005-0048-4. Epub 2005 Sep 29.


Control of the neck muscles is coordinated with the sensory organs of vision, hearing and balance. For instance, activity of splenius capitis (SC) is modified with gaze shift. This interaction between eye movement and neck muscle activity is likely to influence the control of neck movement. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of eye position on neck muscle activity during cervical rotation. In eleven subjects we recorded electromyographic activity (EMG) of muscles that rotate the neck to the right [right obliquus capitis inferior (OI), multifides (MF), and SC, and left sternocleidomastoid (SCM)] with intramuscular or surface electrodes. In sitting, subjects rotated the neck in each direction to specific points in range that were held statically with gaze either fixed to a guide (at three different positions) that moved with the head to maintain a constant intra-orbit eye position or to a panel in front of the subject. Although right SC and left SCM EMG increased with rotation to the right, contrary to anatomical texts, OI EMG increased with both directions and MF EMG did not change from the activity recorded at rest. During neck rotation SCM and MF EMG was less when the eyes were maintained with a constant intra-orbit position that was opposite to the direction of rotation compared to trials in which the eyes were maintained in the same direction as the head movement. The inter-relationship between eye position and neck muscle activity may affect the control of neck posture and movement.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography
  • Electrooculography
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neck Muscles / innervation
  • Neck Muscles / physiology*
  • Rotation
  • Spine / physiology*