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1.  The Effect of Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex Deficits and Covert Saccades on Dynamic Vision in Opioid-Induced Vestibular Dysfunction 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110322.
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 re-fixation 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 21–31) were continuously administrated the opioid remifentanil intravenously (0.15 µg/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.
PMCID: PMC4203781  PMID: 25329150
2.  A New Tool for Investigating the Functional Testing of the VOR 
Peripheral vestibular function may be tested quantitatively, by measuring the gain of the angular vestibulo-ocular reflex (aVOR), or functionally, by assessing how well the aVOR performs with respect to its goal of stabilizing gaze in space and thus allow to acquire visual information during the head movement. In recent years, several groups have developed clinical and quantitative approaches to functional testing of the vestibular system based on the ability to identify an optotype briefly displayed on screen during head rotations. Although the proposed techniques differ in terms of the parameters controlling the testing paradigm, no study has thus far dealt with understanding the role of such choices in determining the effectiveness and reliability of the testing approach. Moreover, recent work has shown that peripheral vestibular patients may produce corrective saccades during the head movement (covert saccades), yet the role of these eye movements toward reading ability during head rotations is not yet understood. Finally, no study has thus far dealt with measuring the true performance of their experimental setups, which is nonetheless likely to be crucial information for understanding the effectiveness of functional testing approaches. Thus we propose a new software and hardware research tool allowing the combined measurement of eye and head movements, together with the timing of the optotype on screen, during functional testing of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) based on the Head Impulse Test. The goal of such tool is therefore that of allowing functional testing of the VOR while collecting the experimental data necessary to understand, for instance, (a) the effectiveness of the covert saccades strategy toward image stabilization, (b) which experimental parameters are crucial for optimizing the diagnostic power of the functional testing approach, and (c) which conditions lead to a successful reading or an error trial.
PMCID: PMC3829465  PMID: 24298265
functional vestibular testing; head impulse test; dynamic visual acuity; compensatory saccades; semicircular canals function
3.  The effects of ion channel blockers validate the conductance-based model of saccadic oscillations 
Conductance-based models of reciprocally inhibiting burst neurons suggest that intrinsic membrane properties and postinhibitory rebound (PIR) determine the amplitude and frequency of saccadic oscillations. Reduction of the low-threshold calcium currents (IT) in the model decreased the amplitude but increased the frequency of the simulated oscillations. Combined reduction of hyperpolarization-activated cation current (Ih) and IT in the model abolished the simulated oscillations. We measured the effects of a selective blocker of IT (ethosuximide) in healthy subjects on the amplitude and frequency of saccadic oscillations evoked by eye closure and of a nonselective blocker of Ih and IT (propronolol) in a patient with microsaccadic oscillation and limb tremor syndrome (mSOLT). Ethosuximide significantly reduced the amplitude but increased the frequency of the saccadic oscillations during eye closure in healthy subjects. Propranolol abolished saccadic oscillations in the mSOLT patient. These results support the hypothetical role of postinhibitory rebound, Ih, and IT, in generation of saccadic oscillations and determining their kinematic properties.
PMCID: PMC3431800  PMID: 21950976
burst neurons; hyperpolarization-activated cation current; low-threshold calcium current; reciprocal innervations
4.  Is Vestibular Self-Motion Perception Controlled by the Velocity Storage? Insights from Patients with Chronic Degeneration of the Vestibulo-Cerebellum 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e36763.
The rotational vestibulo-ocular reflex (rVOR) generates compensatory eye movements in response to rotational head accelerations. The velocity-storage mechanism (VSM), which is controlled by the vestibulo-cerebellar nodulus and uvula, determines the rVOR time constant. In healthy subjects, it has been suggested that self-motion perception in response to earth-vertical axis rotations depends on the VSM in a similar way as reflexive eye movements. We aimed at further investigating this hypothesis and speculated that if the rVOR and rotational self-motion perception share a common VSM, alteration in the latter, such as those occurring after a loss of the regulatory control by vestibulo-cerebellar structures, would result in similar reflexive and perceptual response changes. We therefore set out to explore both responses in patients with vestibulo-cerebellar degeneration.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Reflexive eye movements and perceived rotational velocity were simultaneously recorded in 14 patients with chronic vestibulo-cerebellar degeneration (28–81yrs) and 12 age-matched healthy subjects (30–72yrs) after the sudden deceleration (90°/s2) from constant-velocity (90°/s) rotations about the earth-vertical yaw and pitch axes. rVOR and perceived rotational velocity data were analyzed using a two-exponential model with a direct pathway, representing semicircular canal activity, and an indirect pathway, implementing the VSM. We found that VSM time constants of rVOR and perceived rotational velocity co-varied in cerebellar patients and in healthy controls (Pearson correlation coefficient for yaw 0.95; for pitch 0.93, p<0.01). When constraining model parameters to use the same VSM time constant for rVOR and perceived rotational velocity, moreover, no significant deterioration of the quality of fit was found for both populations (variance-accounted-for >0.8).
Our results confirm that self-motion perception in response to rotational velocity-steps may be controlled by the same velocity storage network that controls reflexive eye movements and that no additional, e.g. cortical, mechanisms are required to explain perceptual dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3376140  PMID: 22719833
5.  A Device for the Functional Evaluation of the VOR in Clinical Settings 
We developed the head impulse testing device (HITD) based on an inertial sensing system allowing to investigate the functional performance of the rotational vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) by testing its gaze stabilization ability, independently from the subject’s visual acuity, in response to head impulses at different head angular accelerations ranging from 2000 to 7000 deg/s2. HITD was initially tested on 22 normal subjects, and a method to compare the results from a single subject (patient) with those from controls was set up. As a pilot study, we tested the HITD in 39 dizzy patients suffering, non-acutely, from different kinds of vestibular disorders. The results obtained with the HITD were comparable with those from the clinical head impulse test (HIT), but an higher number of abnormalities was detectable by HITD in the central vestibular disorders group. The HITD appears to be a promising tool for detecting abnormal VOR performance while providing information on the functional performance of the rotational VOR, and can provide a valuable assistance to the clinical evaluation of patients with vestibular disorders.
PMCID: PMC3311056  PMID: 22470364
VOR testing; head impulse test; semicircular canals; rVOR; dynamic visual acuity
6.  The role of the medial longitudinal fasciculus in horizontal gaze: tests of current hypotheses for saccade-vergence interactions 
Rapid shifts of the point of visual fixation between equidistant targets require equal-sized saccades of each eye. The brainstem medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF) plays a cardinal role in ensuring that horizontal saccades between equidistant targets are tightly yoked. Lesions of the MLF—internuclear ophthalmoparesis (INO)—cause horizontal saccades to become disjunctive: adducting saccades are slow, small, or absent. However, in INO, convergence movements may remain intact. We studied horizontal gaze shifts between equidistant targets and between far and near targets aligned on the visual axis of one eye (Müller test paradigm) in five cases of INO and five control subjects. We estimated the saccadic component of each movement by measuring peak velocity and peak acceleration. We tested whether the ratio of the saccadic component of the adducting/abducting eyes stayed constant or changed for the two types of saccades. For saccades made by control subjects between equidistant targets, the group mean ratio (±SD) of adducting/abducting peak velocity was 0.96 ± 0.07 and adducting/abducting peak acceleration was 0.94 ± 0.09. Corresponding ratios for INO cases were 0.45 ± 0.10 for peak velocity and 0.27 ± 0.11 for peak acceleration, reflecting reduced saccadic pulses for adduction. For control subjects, during the Müller paradigm, the adducting/abducting ratio was 1.25 ± 0.14 for peak velocity and 1.03 ± 0.12 for peak acceleration. Corresponding ratios for INO cases were 0.82 ± 0.18 for peak velocity and 0.48 ± 0.13 for peak acceleration. When adducting/abducting ratios during Müller versus equidistant targets paradigms were compared, INO cases showed larger relative increases for both peak velocity and peak acceleration compared with control subjects. Comparison of similar-sized movements during the two test paradigms indicated that whereas INO patients could decrease peak velocity of their abducting eye during the Müller paradigm, they were unable to modulate adducting velocity in response to viewing conditions. However, the initial component of each eye’s movement was similar in both cases, possibly reflecting activation of saccadic burst neurons. These findings support the hypothesis that horizontal saccades are governed by disjunctive signals, preceded by an initial, high-acceleration conjugate transient and followed by a slower vergence component.
PMCID: PMC3039121  PMID: 21082311
Eye movements; Saccades; Vergence; Medial longitudinal fasciculus; Hering’s law; Multiple sclerosis; Internuclear ophthalmoplegia
7.  Saccadic Burst Cell Membrane Dysfunction Is Responsible for Saccadic Oscillations 
Saccadic oscillations threaten clear vision by causing image motion on the retina. They are either purely horizontal (ocular flutter) or multidimensional (opsoclonus). We propose that ion channel dysfunction in the burst cell membrane is the underlying abnormality. We have tested this hypothesis by simulating a neuromimetic computational model of the burst neurons. This biologically realistic model mimics the physiologic properties and anatomic connections in the brainstem saccade generator. A rebound firing after sustained inhibition, called post-inhibitory rebound (PIR), and reciprocal inhibition between premotor saccadic burst neurons are the key features of this conceptual scheme. PIR and reciprocal inhibition make the circuits that generate the saccadic burst inherently unstable and can lead to oscillations unless stabilized by external inhibition. Our simulations suggest that alterations in membrane properties that lead to an increase in PIR, a reduction in external glycinergic inhibition, or both can cause saccadic oscillations.
PMCID: PMC2752370  PMID: 19145136
8.  Hypothetical membrane mechanisms in essential tremor 
Essential tremor (ET) is the most common movement disorder and its pathophysiology is unknown. We hypothesize that increased membrane excitability in motor circuits has a key role in the pathogenesis of ET. Specifically, we propose that neural circuits controlling ballistic movements are inherently unstable due to their underlying reciprocal innervation. Such instability is enhanced by increased neural membrane excitability and the circuit begins to oscillate. These oscillations manifest as tremor.
Postural limb tremor was recorded in 22 ET patients and then the phenotype was simulated with a conductance-based neuromimetic model of ballistic movements. The model neuron was Hodgkin-Huxley type with added hyperpolarization activated cation current (Ih), low threshold calcium current (IT), and GABA and glycine mediated chloride currents. The neurons also featured the neurophysiological property of rebound excitation after release from sustained inhibition (post-inhibitory rebound). The model featured a reciprocally innervated circuit of neurons that project to agonist and antagonist muscle pairs.
Neural excitability was modulated by changing Ih and/or IT. Increasing Ih and/or IT further depolarized the membrane and thus increased excitability. The characteristics of the tremor from all ET patients were simulated when Ih was increased to ~10× the range of physiological values. In contrast, increasing other membrane conductances, while keeping Ih at a physiological value, did not simulate the tremor. Increases in Ih and IT determined the frequency and amplitude of the simulated oscillations.
These simulations support the hypothesis that increased membrane excitability in potentially unstable, reciprocally innervated circuits can produce oscillations that resemble ET. Neural excitability could be increased in a number of ways. In this study membrane excitability was increased by up-regulating Ih and IT. This approach suggests new experimental and clinical ways to understand and treat common tremor disorders.
PMCID: PMC2613385  PMID: 18990221

Results 1-8 (8)