The degree to which a person relies on visual stimuli for spatial orientation is termed visual dependency (VD). VD is considered a perceptual trait or cognitive style influenced by psychological factors and mediated by central re-weighting of the sensory inputs involved in spatial orientation. VD is often measured using the rod-and-disk test, wherein participants align a central rod to the subjective visual vertical (SVV) in the presence of a background that is either stationary or rotating around the line of sight - dynamic SVV. Although this task has been employed to assess VD in health and vestibular disease, it is unknown what effect torsional nystagmic eye movements may have on individual performance. Using caloric ear irrigation, 3D video-oculography and the rod-and-disk test, we show that caloric torsional nystagmus modulates measures of visual dependency and demonstrate that increases in tilt after irrigation are positively correlated with changes in ocular torsional eye movements. When the direction of the slow phase of the torsional eye movement induced by the caloric is congruent with that induced by the rotating visual stimulus, there is a significant increase in tilt. When these two torsional components are in opposition there is a decrease. These findings show that measures of visual dependence can be influenced by oculomotor responses induced by caloric stimulation. The findings are of significance for clinical studies as they indicate that VD, which often increases in vestibular disorders, is not only modulated by changes in cognitive style but also by eye movements, in particular nystagmus.
- Visual dependency
- field dependence-independence
- subjective visual vertical
- ocular torsion
- Copyright © 2015, Journal of Neurophysiology