Contribution of the vertical semicircular canals to the caloric nystagmus

S. T. Aw, T. Haslwanter, M. Fetter, J. Heimberger, M. J. Todd

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Modulation of the caloric nystagmus in response to repositioning the plane of one vertical semicircular canal from gravitational horizontal to vertical during continuous caloric stimulation was used to measure the vertical canal's contribution to the nystagmus. The rationale was to examine the thermovective response from one vertical canal at a time, after a temperature gradient had been established across its two limbs. The nystagmus was measured and analysed in three dimensions using orthogonal head-referenced coordinates. The magnitude of each semicircular canal's contribution to the overall caloric response, the canal vector, was determined in non-orthogonal, contravariant semicircular canal plane coordinates. By using the canal plane reorientation technique and contravariant canal plane coordinates, we were able to measure the proportional thermovective response magnitude generated by each vertical canal during caloric stimulation. We found that the anterior canal contributed about one-third and the posterior canal about one-tenth as much as the lateral canal did to the overall caloric response magnitude when it was reoriented from horizontal to vertical. Comparison of the eye rotation axis before and after each vertical canal plane reorientation, with the geometry of the stimulated semicircular canals, also showed directional modulation of the caloric nystagmus by the vertical canal response. When one vertical canal plane was horizontal during caloric stimulation, the eye rotation axis aligned with the resultant of the other vertical canal and the lateral canal response axes. After vertical canal plane reorientation, the eye rotation axis realigned towards the resultant of the maximally stimulated vertical canal and the lateral canal, by 55.2+/-33.9 degrees (mean+/-SD) after anterior canal plane reorientation and by 32.3+/-21.2 degrees after posterior canal reorientation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-627
Number of pages10
JournalActa Oto-Laryngologica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Canal vector
  • Eye rotation axis
  • Three-dimensional eye movements
  • Vestibular
  • Semicircular Canals/physiology
  • Humans
  • Reference Values
  • Nystagmus, Physiologic/physiology
  • Posture/physiology
  • Rotation
  • Adult
  • Caloric Tests/instrumentation
  • Head/physiology


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