Increased visual dependence and otolith dysfunction with alcohol intoxication

Neuroreport. 2007 Mar 5;18(4):391-4. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328013e3eb.


Alcohol intoxication affects the vestibular system and balance control in many ways. We have investigated how acute, moderate (blood alcohol concentrations of 0.06+/-0.01%), and high (0.10+/-0.02%) alcohol intoxication affects the ability to perceive the visual horizontal and vertical and the visual field dependence measured with the rod and frame tests in 24 healthy participants. Alcohol ingestion impaired the ability to use gravitational vestibular cues when determining the visual vertical and horizontal, and caused increased visual field dependence. With conflicting gravitational and visual information, alcohol seems to promote a reweighting in balance control from a vestibular to a more visual dependency. Furthermore, the results indicate that alcohol intoxication at these levels start instigating a decompensation of minute subclinical vestibular asymmetries.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / blood
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / physiopathology*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / drug effects
  • Gravitation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Otolithic Membrane / drug effects
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / drug effects
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology*
  • Space Perception / drug effects
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Vestibular Function Tests
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Ethanol