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Exp Brain Res. 2003 Jan;148(2):158-65. Epub 2002 Nov 5.

Cross-axis adaptation of torsional components in the yaw-axis vestibulo-ocular reflex.

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Department of Neurology, Medical University of Lübeck, Klinik für Neurologie, Germany.
Johns Hopkins U Sch Med, Baltimore, MD


The three pairs of semicircular canals within the labyrinth are not perfectly aligned with the pulling directions of the six extraocular muscles. Therefore, for a given head movement, the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) depends upon central neural mechanisms that couple the canals to the muscles with the appropriate functional gains in order to generate a response that rotates the eye the correct amount and around the correct axis. A consequence of these neural connections is a cross-axis adaptive capability, which can be stimulated experimentally when head rotation is around one axis and visual motion about another. From this visual-vestibular conflict the brain infers that the slow-phase eye movement is rotating around the wrong axis. We explored the capability of human cross-axis adaptation, using a short-term training paradigm, to determine if torsional eye movements could be elicited by yaw (horizontal) head rotation (where torsion is normally inappropriate). We applied yaw sinusoidal head rotation (+/-10 degrees, 0.33 Hz) and measured eye movement responses in the dark, and before and after adaptation. The adaptation paradigm lasted 45-60 min, and consisted of the identical head motion, coupled with a moving visual scene that required one of several types of eye movements: (1) torsion alone (-Roll); (2) horizontal/torsional, head right/CW torsion (Yaw-Roll); (3) horizontal/torsional, head right/CCW torsion (Yaw+Roll); (4) horizontal, vertical, torsional combined (Yaw+Pitch-Roll); and (5) horizontal and vertical together (Yaw+Pitch). The largest and most significant changes in torsional amplitude occurred in the Yaw-Roll and Yaw+Roll conditions. We conclude that short-term, cross-axis adaptation of torsion is possible but constrained by the complexity of the adaptation task: smaller torsional components are produced if more than one cross-coupling component is required. In contrast, vertical cross-axis components can be easily trained to occur with yaw head movements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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