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Ramaioli, Cecilia; Colagiorgio, Paolo; Sağlam, Murat; Heuser, Fabian; Schneider, Erich; Ramat, Stefano and Lehnen, Nadine (2014): The Effect of Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex Deficits and Covert Saccades on Dynamic Vision in Opioid-Induced Vestibular Dysfunction.
In: PLOS ONE 9(10), e110322 [PDF, 487kB]


Patients with bilateral vestibular dysfunction cannot fully compensate passive head rotations with eye movements, and experience disturbing oscillopsia. To compensate for the deficient vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), they have to rely on refixation saccades. Some can trigger "covert'' saccades while the head still moves; others only initiate saccades afterwards. Due to their shorter latency, it has been hypothesized that covert saccades are particularly beneficial to improve dynamic visual acuity, reducing oscillopsia. Here, we investigate the combined effect of covert saccades and the VOR on clear vision, using the Head Impulse Testing Device - Functional Test (HITD-FT), which quantifies reading ability during passive high-acceleration head movements. To reversibly decrease VOR function, fourteen healthy men (median age 26 years, range 2131) were continuously administrated the opioid remifentanil intravenously (0.15 mu g/kg/min). VOR gain was assessed with the video head-impulse test, functional performance (i.e. reading) with the HITD-FT. Before opioid application, VOR and dynamic reading were intact (head-impulse gain: 0.87 +/- 0.08, mean +/- SD;HITD-FT rate of correct answers: 90 +/- 9%). Remifentanil induced impairment in dynamic reading (HITD-FT 26 +/- 15%) in 12/14 subjects, with transient bilateral vestibular dysfunction (head-impulse gain 0.63 +/- 0.19). HITD-FT score correlated with head-impulse gain (R = 0.63, p = 0.03) and with gain difference (before/with remifentanil, R = -0.64, p = 0.02). One subject had a non-pathological head-impulse gain (0.82 +/- 0.03) and a high HITD-FT score (92%). One subject triggered covert saccades in 60% of the head movements and could read during passive head movements (HITD-FT 93%) despite a pathological head-impulse gain (0.59 +/- 0.03) whereas none of the 12 subjects without covert saccades reached such high performance. In summary, early catch-up saccades may improve dynamic visual function. HITD-FT is an appropriate method to assess the combined gaze stabilization effect of both VOR and covert saccades (overall dynamic vision), e.g., to document performance and progress during vestibular rehabilitation.

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