A hypothetical explanation of congenital nystagmus

Biol Cybern. 1984;50(2):119-34. doi: 10.1007/BF00337159.


Congenital nystagmus (CN) is a conjugate, rhythmic, eye movement disorder characterized by a wide variety of waveforms ranging from jerk to pendular types. No detailed mechanisms have been proposed to explain the generation of the CN waveform. This paper proposes a hypothetical mechanism for CN, and shows with computer simulations that a model based on this hypothesis can account for a variety of disparate waveforms. The basis of this model is a gaze-holding network, or neural integrator, that has both position and velocity feedback loops. The signals carried in these loops could arise from either afference or efference . In normal subjects, the position feedback would be positive and the velocity feedback would be negative. Both would help to increase the time constant of an imperfect neural integrator in the brain stem. We propose that in patients with CN the sign of the velocity pathway is reversed, making the neural integrator unstable. This instability could manifest as many different CN waveforms, depending on the direction and velocity of post-saccadic ocular drift and actions of nonlinearities within the position and velocity feedback loops. Thus a single underlying abnormality may be responsible for a variety of CN waveforms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Eye Movements
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / congenital*
  • Reference Values