Compensatory Increase of the Cervico-Ocular Reflex with Age in Healthy Humans



The cervico-ocular reflex (COR) is an ocular stabilization reflex that is elicited by rotation of the neck. It works in conjunction with the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and the optokinetic reflex (OKR) in order to prevent visual slip over the retina due to self-motion. The gains of the VOR and OKR are known to decrease with age. We have investigated whether the COR, a reflexive eye movement elicited by rotation of the neck, shows a compensatory increase and whether a synergy exists between the COR and the other ocular stabilization reflexes. In the present study 35 healthy subjects of varying age (20–86 years) were rotated in the dark in a trunk-to-head manner (the head fixed in spaced with the body passively rotated under it) at peak velocities between 2.1 and 12.6 deg s−1 as a COR stimulus. Another 15 were subjected to COR, VOR and OKR stimuli at frequencies between 0.04 and 0.1 Hz. Three subjects participated in both tests. The position of the eyes was recorded with an infrared recording technique. We found that the COR-gain increases with increasing age and that there is a significant covariation between the gains of the VOR and COR, meaning that when VOR increases, COR decreases and vice versa. A nearly constant phase lag between the COR and the VOR of about 25 deg existed at all stimulus frequencies.