The effect of alertness and visual attention on optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) and optokinetic after-nystagmus (OKAN) was studied in 20 volunteers. Electroencephalographic (EEG) activity was recorded over the occipital lobe. Exposure to sound and vibration caused a significant increase in the mean slow-phase velocity of OKN, whereas its maximum slow-phase velocity remained unaffected. Vibration tended to increase the mean slow-phase velocity of OKN more than sound did, though the difference was not statistically significant. Vibration also significantly increased the OKAN. When alpha rhythm appeared in the occipital EEG during OKN, the velocity of concurrent slow phases was reduced. However, the periods of alpha rhythm did not differ between the different stimulus conditions. The findings suggest that sound and vibration activate the subcortical optokinetic mechanism, thus causing an increase in the mean velocity of OKN. Abatement of visual attention is reflected in temporary reduction of OKN in conjunction with the appearance of alpha waves and is to be interpreted as transient quiescence of the cortical optokinetic mechanism.