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Vestibulo-Ocular Reex Eye Movements During Multiaxial Whole Body Rotations


Beykirch,  K
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Beykirch, K., von Lassberg C, Mühlbauer, T., & Krug, J. (2004). Vestibulo-Ocular Reex Eye Movements During Multiaxial Whole Body Rotations. Poster presented at 7th Tübingen Perception Conference (TWK 2004), Tübingen, Germany.

Vestibulo-ocular reex (VOR) responses of humans to whole body rotations are well known. Along with other parameters, the “VOR-gain” (eye velocity / head velocity) may be used to evaluate the functional status of the VOR. Although VOR gain is known to show great individual variability, we sought to determine whether the adaptive plasticity of VOR gain may give insight about individual strategies for optimal spatial orientation. The question of whether the oculomotor responses would be different between a group of experts (“gym” - high performance gymnasts), with a high degree of spatial abilities, and a control group of non-athletes (“control”), was of particular interest. The subjects' (gym: n = 9, age: 10–12 years, control: n = 10, age: 10–12 years) eye movements were recorded using a video nystagmography system (SMI). They were seated with head xed in a software controlled multiaxial whole body rotator. The test consisted of a combination of a two simultaneous sinusoidal 360 rotations about the pitch and yaw axes, followed by the reverse motion, simulating movements of “twisting somersaults”. The maximum velocity was 113 deg/s in each axis, and duration was 10 sec for the whole test (0.1 Hz). Each subject was rst rotated without knowledge of the nature of the stimulus, followed by a repetition where the subjects knew the same test would occur. This was compared to a standard sinusoidal monoaxial (horizontal) test (0.1 Hz, 100 deg/s). Although correctly directed eye movements were observed during all phases of the whole body rotation (including in a companion study with double twists), initial comparisons were performed on the horizontal components of eye movements and whole body rotation. The results show no signicant difference between the gymnasts and controls for the sinusoidal test (gain s.d.,gym.:0.48 0.06, n=9, non.:0.45 0.14, n=9; p=.565, Z=-.575, Mann-Whitney-U), and the rst (w/o prior knowledge) multiaxial stimulus (gym.:0.48 0.05, n=8; non.:0.47 0.07, n=9; p=.596, Z=-.531, Mann-Whitney-U). For the second (prior knowledge) multiaxial stimulus, the difference was signicant ((gym.:0.39 0.05, n=6; non.:0.45 0.06, n=6; p=.037, Z=-2.085, Mann-Whitney-U). Finding no difference for the tests without expectations of the stimulus show that the reexive response has not been adapted in this context. But the signicant difference following preparation of the stimulus shows the gymnasts suppress even reexive eye movements. This is consistent with the companion poster indicating that gymnasts may rely heavily on visual orientation mechanisms at the expense of vestibular responses, both cognitive and oculomotor.