The Influence of Caffeine on Rotary Chair and Oculomotor Testing

J Am Acad Audiol. Jul/Aug 2018;29(7):587-595. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.16118.


Background: When patients are given instructions before vestibular function testing, they are often asked to refrain from ingesting caffeine 24 h before testing. However, research regarding the effects of caffeine on the outcome of vestibular function testing is limited.

Purpose: To evaluate whether the results from rotational chair tests are influenced by caffeine.

Research design: Participants were tested after consuming a caffeinated beverage (i.e., coffee containing ∼300 mg of caffeine), as well as after abstaining from caffeinated beverages. The participants underwent oculomotor testing, sinusoidal harmonic acceleration testing, optokinetic testing, visual enhancement/suppression testing, subjective visual vertical/horizontal testing, trapezoidal step testing, and unilateral utricular centrifugation testing.

Study sample: Thirty healthy young controls aged 18-40 yr (mean = 23.28 yr; 9 males, 21 females) participated in the study.

Data collection and analysis: Rotational chair tests were completed with the Neuro Kinetics rotary chair (Pittsburgh, PA). VEST 7.0 software was used to collect and analyze the participants' eye movements (I-Portal VOG; Neuro Kinetics). IBM SPSS was used to statistically analyze the results.

Results: Statistically significant differences were found for the results from several oculomotor tests (i.e., vertical saccades [SCs], horizontal SCs, and optokinetics), whereas the remaining rotational chair tests did not reveal any statistically significant differences between sessions. If a statistically significant difference was found, the participants were then stratified based on the amount of caffeine they consumed on a daily basis. This stratification was accomplished based on the guidelines from the International Coffee Organization. When the data were analyzed based on the stratified groups, statistically significant results remained in the no/low caffeine intake group, whereas no statistically significant results remained in the moderate/high caffeine intake group. Clinically speaking, the largest effect was seen in those individuals who did not typically ingest large amounts of caffeine, whereas the results were not found to be significantly different in those individuals who were typical caffeine consumers. This strengthens the argument that it is not necessary to require that individuals refrain from consuming caffeinated beverages before oculomotor/rotary chair testing as the results from typical caffeine consumers are not significantly affected.

Conclusions: Although statistically significant results were found for a number of the oculomotor function tests, the ingestion of caffeine had little influence on the clinical interpretation of the responses. Therefore, the results from the present study indicate that it is not necessary to require that healthy young individuals abstain from caffeine before undergoing rotary chair/oculomotor testing. Further research is necessary to determine whether there is also a limited effect of caffeine on rotary chair/oculomotor test results from older individuals, as well as individuals diagnosed with a vestibular impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Eye Movement Measurements*
  • Eye Movements / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Vestibular Function Tests*
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine