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Exp Brain Res. 2007 Apr;178(4):529-41. Epub 2006 Nov 8.

Temporal dynamics of semicircular canal and otolith function following acute unilateral vestibular deafferentation in humans.

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


Dynamic changes of deficits in canal and otolith vestibulo-ocular reflexes (VORs) to high acceleration, eccentric yaw rotations were investigated in five subjects aged 25-65 years before and at frequent intervals 3-451 days following unilateral vestibular deafferentation (UVD) due to labyrinthectomy or vestibular neurectomy. Eye and head movements were recorded using magnetic search coils during transients of directionally random, whole-body rotation in darkness at peak acceleration 2,800 degrees/s2. Canal VORs were characterized during rotation about a mid-otolith axis, viewing a target 500 cm distant until rotation onset in darkness. Otolith VOR responses were characterized by the increase in VOR gain during identical rotation about an axis 13 cm posterior to the otoliths, initially viewing a target 15 cm distant. Pre-UVD canal gain was directionally symmetrical, averaging 0.87 +/- 0.02 (+/-SEM). Contralesional canal gain declined from pre-UVD by an average of 22% in the first 3-5 days post-UVD, before recovering to an asymptote of close 90% of pre-UVD level at 1-3 months. This recovery corresponded to resolution of spontaneous nystagmus. Ipsilesional gain declined to 59%, and showed no consistent recovery afterwards. Pre-UVD otolith gain was directionally symmetrical, averaging 0.56 +/- 0.02. Immediately after UVD, the contralesional otolith gain declined to 0.30 +/- 0.02, and did not recover. Ipsilesional otolith gain declined profoundly to 0.08 +/- 0.03 (P < 0.01), and never recovered. In contrast to the modest and directionally symmetrical effect of UVD on the human otolith VOR during pure translational acceleration, otolith gain during eccentric yaw rotation exhibited a profound and lasting deficit that might be diagnostically useful in lateralizing otolith pathology. Most recovery of the human canal gain to high acceleration transients following UVD is for contralesional head rotation, occurring within 3 months as spontaneous nystagmus resolves.

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