Background: Activation of muscle spindles by vibration of eye muscles is known to induce illusory movements of fixated targets, but the effects on eye position have not been studied, either in normal subjects or in patients with exotropia.
Methods: Eye position was recorded from the covered, non-dominant eye with an infrared system in 11 subjects with normal eyes and binocular vision and in 10 patients with exotropia and abnormal binocular function. Activation of eye muscle spindles was done by vibration at 70 Hz of the inferior and lateral rectus muscles of the dominant eye, fixating a light-emitting diode in subdued light.
Results: Vibratory activation of proprioceptors in the inferior rectus muscle induced an eye movement mainly directed upward in both normal and exotropic subjects. The magnitude of the movement was on average 2.7 deg in normals and 2.4 deg in exotropes. Lateral rectus vibration induced a movement that was mainly temporally directed (abduction) of an average 2.1 deg in normal subjects, but a nasally directed (adduction) movement of 4.2 deg in exotropic subjects. In normal subjects the eye movement is of the same direction as the earlier reported visual illusory movements induced by the same type of proprioceptive activation, but in exotropic subjects the movements is in the opposite direction.
Conclusions: Proprioceptive activation of eye muscles affects eye position, and the results also indicate that signals from eye muscles are processed differently in normals and strabismics, probably depending on the level of binocular function.