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Traumatic brain injury and vestibulo-ocular function: current challenges and future prospects

Authors Wallace B, Lifshitz J

Received 25 November 2015

Accepted for publication 17 February 2016

Published 6 September 2016 Volume 2016:8 Pages 153—164

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/EB.S82670

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Margaret Wong-Riley


Bridgett Wallace,1–4 Jonathan Lifshitz4–8

1360 Balance and Hearing, Department of Physical Therapy, Austin, TX, 2Concussion Health, Department of Clinical Education, Austin, TX, 3Conquering Concussions, Scottsdale, AZ, 4Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix, AZ, 5Department of Child Health, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ, 6The CACTIS Foundation, Scottsdale, 7Phoenix VA Healthcare System, Phoenix, AZ, 8Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA


Abstract: Normal function of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) coordinates eye movement with head movement, in order to provide clear vision during motion and maintain balance. VOR is generated within the semicircular canals of the inner ear to elicit compensatory eye movements, which maintain stability of images on the fovea during brief, rapid head motion, otherwise known as gaze stability. Normal VOR function is necessary in carrying out activities of daily living (eg, walking and riding in a car) and is of particular importance in higher demand activities (eg, sports-related activities). Disruption or damage in the VOR can result in symptoms such as movement-related dizziness, blurry vision, difficulty maintaining balance with head movements, and even nausea. Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is considered a risk factor for a prolonged recovery. Assessment of the vestibular system is of particular importance following TBI, in conjunction with oculomotor control, due to the intrinsic neural circuitry that exists between the ocular and vestibular systems. The purpose of this article is to review the physiology of the VOR and the visual-vestibular symptoms associated with TBI and to discuss assessment and treatment guidelines for TBI. Current challenges and future prospects will also be addressed.

Keywords: traumatic brain injury, concussion, vestibular, ocular motor, symptoms

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