Gabapentin and Memantine for Treatment of Acquired Pendular Nystagmus: Effects on Visual Outcomes

J Neuroophthalmol. 2020 Jun;40(2):198-206. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000000807.


Background: The most common causes of acquired pendular nystagmus (APN) are multiple sclerosis (MS) and oculopalatal tremor (OPT), both of which result in poor visual quality of life. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effects of memantine and gabapentin treatments on visual function. We also sought to correlate visual outcomes with ocular motor measures and to describe the side effects of our treatments.

Methods: This study was single-center cross-over trial. A total of 16 patients with chronic pendular nystagmus, 10 with MS and 6 with OPT were enrolled. Visual acuity (in logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution [LogMAR]), oscillopsia amplitude and direction, eye movement recordings, and visual function questionnaires (25-Item National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire [NEI-VFQ-25]) were performed before and during the treatments (gabapentin: 300 mg 4 times a day and memantine: 10 mg 4 times a day).

Results: A total of 29 eyes with nystagmus were evaluated. Median near monocular visual acuity improved in both treatment arms, by 0.18 LogMAR on memantine and 0.12 LogMAR on gabapentin. Distance oscillopsia improved on memantine and on gabapentin. Median near oscillopsia did not significantly change on memantine or gabapentin. Significant improvement in ocular motor parameters was observed on both treatments. Because of side effects, 18.8% of patients discontinued memantine treatment-one of them for a serious adverse event. Only 6.7% of patients discontinued gabapentin. Baseline near oscillopsia was greater among those with higher nystagmus amplitude and velocity.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated that both memantine and gabapentin reduce APN, improving functional visual outcomes. Gabapentin showed a better tolerability, suggesting that this agent should be used as a first-line agent for APN. Data from our investigation emphasize the importance of visual functional outcome evaluations in clinical trials for APN.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gabapentin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memantine / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity*
  • Young Adult


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Gabapentin
  • Memantine