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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 May 14;53(6):2887-96. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-7929.

Differential lateral rectus compartmental contraction during ocular counter-rolling.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7002, USA.



The lateral rectus (LR) and medial rectus (MR) extraocular muscles (EOMs) have largely nonoverlapping superior and inferior innervation territories, suggesting functional compartmental specialization. We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in humans to investigate differential compartmental activity in the rectus EOMs during head tilt, which evokes ocular counter-rolling, a torsional vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR).


MRI in quasi-coronal planes was analyzed during target-controlled central gaze in 90° right and left head tilts in 12 normal adults. Cross sections and posterior partial volumes of the transverse portions of the four rectus EOMs were compared in contiguous image planes 2 mm thick spanning the orbit from origins to globe equator, and used as indicators of contractility.


Horizontal rectus EOMs had significantly greater posterior volumes and maximum cross sections in their inferior compartments (P < 10(-8)). In orbit tilt up (extorted) compared with orbit tilt down (intorted) head tilts, contractile changes in LR maximum cross section (P < 0.0001) and posterior partial volume (P < 0.05) were significantly greater in the inferior but not in the superior compartment. These changes were not explainable by horizontal or vertical eye position changes. A weaker compartmental effect was suggested for MR. The vertical rectus EOMs did not exhibit significant compartmental contractile changes during head tilt. Mechanical modeling suggests that differential LR contraction may contribute to physiological cyclovertical effects.


Selective activation of the two LR, and possibly MR, compartments correlates with newly recognized segregation of intramuscular innervation into distinct compartments, and probably contributes to noncommutative torsion during the VOR.

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