Adaptation of the angular vestibulo-ocular reflex to head movements in rotating frames of reference

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Jun;195(4):553-67. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1825-2. Epub 2009 May 21.


Head movements in a rotating frame of reference are commonly encountered, but their long term effects on the angular vestibulo-ocular reflex (aVOR) are not well understood. To study this, monkeys were oscillated about a naso-occipital (roll) axis for several hours while rotating about a spatial vertical axis (roll-while-rotating, RWR). This induced oscillations in roll and pitch eye velocity and continuous horizontal (yaw) nystagmus. For several hours thereafter, simple roll in darkness induced horizontal nystagmus and pitch and roll oscillations. The rising and falling time constants of the horizontal velocity indicated that the nystagmus arose in velocity storage. The continuous nystagmus was correlated with a phase shift of vertical eye velocity from 90 degrees to 0 degrees re head position. As the phases reverted toward pre-adaptive values, the horizontal velocity declined. Similar yaw nystagmus and pitch and roll velocities were produced by oscillation in roll after adaptation with roll and horizontal optokinetic nystagmus (OKN), but not after adaptation with pitch-while-rotating (PWR). Findings were explained by a model that shifted the roll orientation vector of velocity storage toward the pitch axis during adaptation with RWR and Roll & OKN. This shift produced modulation in vertical eye velocity in the post adaptive state, which was approximately in phase with roll head position, generating horizontal nystagmus. Similar orientation changes to prolonged exposure to complex motion environments may be responsible for producing post-stimulus motion sickness and/or mal de debarquement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Macaca
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motion Sickness / etiology
  • Motion Sickness / physiopathology
  • Nystagmus, Physiologic / physiology
  • Oculomotor Muscles / innervation
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology*
  • Rotation / adverse effects*
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology