Journal of Neurology

, 255:1038

Clinical features and associated syndromes of mal de debarquement

  • Y.-H. Cha
  • J. Brodsky
  • G. Ishiyama
  • C. Sabatti
  • R. W. Baloh

DOI: 10.1007/s00415-008-0837-3

Cite this article as:
Cha, YH., Brodsky, J., Ishiyama, G. et al. J Neurol (2008) 255: 1038. doi:10.1007/s00415-008-0837-3



To investigatethe clinical features and naturalhistory of mal de debarquement(MdD).


Retrospective casereview with follow-up questionnaireand telephone interviews.


University Neurotology Clinic.


Patients seen between1980 and 2006 who developed apersistent sensation of rocking orswaying for at least 3 days after exposureto passive motion.

Main outcome measure

Clinical features,diagnostic testing, and questionnaireresponses.


Of 64 patients(75 % women) identifiedwith MdD, 34 completed follow-upquestionnaires and interviews in2006. Most patients had normalneurological exams, ENGs andbrain MRIs. The average age of thefirst MdD episode was 39 ± 13years. A total of 206 episodes wereexperienced by 64 patients. Ofthese, 104 episodes (51 %) lasted> 1 month; 18 %, > 1 year; 15 %, > 2years; 12 %, > 4 years, and 11 %, > 5years. Eighteen patients (28 %) subsequentlydeveloped spontaneousepisodes of MdD-like symptomsafter the initial MdD episode.There was a much higher rate ofmigraine in patients who went onto develop spontaneous episodes(73 %) than in those who did not(22 %). Subsequent episodes werelonger than earlier ones in mostpatients who had multiple episodes.Re-exposure to passivemotion temporarily decreasedsymptoms in most patients (66 %).Subjective intolerance to visualmotion increased (10 % to 66 %)but self-motion sensitivity did not(37 % to 50 %) with onset of MdD.


The majority of MdDepisodes lasting longer than 3 daysresolve in less than one year but theprobability of resolution declineseach year. Many patients experiencemultiple MdD episodes. Somepatients develop spontaneousepisodes after the initial motiontriggeredepisode with migrainebeing a risk factor.

Key words

mal de debarquement vestibular adaptation motion sensitivity visual motion migraine 

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y.-H. Cha
    • 1
  • J. Brodsky
    • 2
  • G. Ishiyama
    • 1
  • C. Sabatti
    • 3
  • R. W. Baloh
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of NeurologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of StatisticsUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Dept. of Human GeneticsUniversity of CaliforniaUCLA Hum GeneticsLos AngelesUSA

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