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Spontaneous reversal of nystagmus in the dark
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Abstract

AIM To report five children with horizontal jerk nystagmus in whom eye movement recordings in the dark revealed a spontaneous reversal in the direction of the nystagmus beat. Three patients were blind in one eye and were diagnosed as having a manifest latent nystagmus (MLN), and two patients had strabismus and congenital nystagmus (CN).

METHODS Eye movements were recorded using DC electro-oculography with simultaneous video recording, including infrared recording in total darkness.

RESULTS Four patients had decelerating velocity slow phase jerk nystagmus when recorded under natural lighting conditions; the fifth case had accelerating velocity and linear slow phase jerk nystagmus. Under absolute darkness, nystagmus reversed in direction of beat with a mixture of linear and decelerating velocity slow phase waveforms. One child with unilateral anophthalmos could wilfully reverse the beat direction of his nystagmus by trying to look with his blind eye in the light and dark.

CONCLUSIONS These observations support the theory that LN/MLN beat direction is determined by the “presumed” viewing eye and may be consciously controlled. The spontaneous reversal of beat direction in the dark suggests eye dominance is predetermined. Eye movement recordings identified mixed nystagmus waveforms indicating that CN (accelerating velocity slow phases) and LN/MLN (linear/decelerating velocity slow phases) coexist in these subjects.

  • manifest latent nystagmus
  • eye dominance
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