Skip to main content

Three-dimensional eye movement recordings during magnetic vestibular stimulation


Human subjects placed in strong magnetic fields such as in an MRI scanner often feel dizzy or vertiginous. Recent studies in humans and animals have shown that these effects arise from stimulation of the labyrinth and are accompanied by nystagmus. Here, we measured the three-dimensional pattern of nystagmus using video eye tracking in five normal human subjects placed in a 7T MRI to infer which semicircular canals are activated by magnetic vestibular stimulation. We found that the nystagmus usually had a torsional as well as a horizontal component. Analysis of the relative velocities of the three eye movement components revealed that the lateral and anterior (superior) canals are the only canals activated, and by a similar amount.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. 1.

    Antunes A, Glover PM, Li Y, Mian OS, Day BL (2012) Magnetic field effects on the vestibular system: calculation of the pressure on the cupula due to ionic current-induced Lorentz force. Phys Med Biol 57:4477–4487

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Glover PM, Cavin I, Qian W, Bowtell R, Gowland PA (2007) Magnetic-field-induced vertigo: a theoretical and experimental investigation. Bioelectromagnetics 28:349–361

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Grunfeld EA, Okada T, Bronstein AM et al (2000) The effect of habituation and plane of rotation on vestibular perceptual responses. J Vestib Res 10:193–200

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Jareonsettasin P, Otero-Millan J, Ward BK, Roberts DC, Schubert MC, Zee DS (2016) Multiple time courses of vestibular set-point adaptation revealed by sustained magnetic field stimulation of the labyrinth. Curr Biol 26:1359–1366

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Leigh R, Zee D (2015) The neurology of eye movements, 5th edn. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Mian OS, Li Y, Antunes A, Glover PM, Day BL (2013) On the vertigo due to static magnetic fields. Available at Accessed 17 Feb 2017

  7. 7.

    Otero-Millan J, Roberts DC, Lasker A, Zee DS, Kheradmand A (2015) Knowing what the brain is seeing in three dimensions: a novel, noninvasive, sensitive, accurate, and low-noise technique for measuring ocular torsion. J Vis 15:11

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Roberts DC, Marcelli V, Gillen JS, Carey JP, Della Santina CC, Zee DS (2011) MRI magnetic field stimulates rotational sensors of the brain. Curr Biol 21:1635–1640

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Robinson DA (1982) The use of matrices in analyzing the three-dimensional behavior of the vestibulo-ocular reflex. Biol Cybern 46:53–66

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Tweed D, Sievering D, Misslisch H, Fetter M, Zee D, Koenig E (1994) Rotational kinematics of the human vestibuloocular reflex. J Neurophysiol 72:2467–2479

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Ward BK, Roberts DC, Della Santina CC, Carey JP, Zee DS (2014) Magnetic vestibular stimulation in subjects with unilateral labyrinthine disorders. Front Neurol 5 Available at: Accessed 17 Feb 2017

  12. 12.

    Ward BK, Roberts DC, Della Santina CC, Carey JP, Zee DS (2015) Vestibular stimulation by magnetic fields. Ann NY Acad Sci 1343(1):69–79

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study was funded by the Fight for Sight and Leon Levy Foundations, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Discovery Fund, and the Cinquegrana, Lott, and Schwerin families.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bryan K. Ward.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

This study has been approved by the institutional review board at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards established in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki.

Additional information

This manuscript is part of a supplement sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the funding initiative for integrated research and treatment centers.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Otero-Millan, J., Zee, D.S., Schubert, M.C. et al. Three-dimensional eye movement recordings during magnetic vestibular stimulation. J Neurol 264, 7–12 (2017).

Download citation


  • Vestibular
  • Magnetic vestibular stimulation
  • Labyrinth
  • Vertigo
  • Magnetic resonance imaging