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Inventis - June 2023

Understanding the Role of Video-Nystagmography (VNG) in Vertigo Diagnosis

Vishal Pawar

May 20, 2024
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This interview with Dr. Vishal Pawar extensively covers the role and significance of Video-nystagmography (VNG) in diagnosing vertigo-related disorders.

 

Dr. Pawar explains that VNG is a crucial, non-invasive diagnostic tool that provides an accurate examination of eye movements to assess the functional integrity of the vestibular system.

Dr. Pawar delves into the necessity of eye movements for optimal visual function, allowing rapid shifts in fixation points and maintaining high visual acuity. These movements are essential for daily activities such as reading, recognizing faces, and navigating complex environments. Additionally, they reflect neurological health, being regulated by a complex network of muscles, nerves, and brain areas.

The interview provides a detailed discussion on the functions of the six extraocular muscles and their actions, along with the cranial nerves that innervate these muscles, highlighting the importance of supranuclear control of eye movements by the frontal eye field and other associated brain areas.

Dr. Pawar emphasizes the role of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) in maintaining stable vision during head movements. Various classes of eye movements are described, each with specific functions such as fixation, optokinetic response, and vestibulo-ocular response.

Finally, the interview explores different techniques for recording eye movements, including electronystagmography (ENG), video-oculography (VOG), and scleral search coil, with a particular focus on the applications and testing protocols of VNG in diagnosing vestibular dysfunctions.

Dr. Pawar concludes by underscoring the critical importance of VNG testing protocols in detecting and managing vestibular disorders, guiding treatment strategies through detailed analysis of eye movements in response to various stimuli.

AudiologyOnline: Could you explain the purpose and process of Video-nystagmography (VNG) and its significance in diagnosing conditions related to vertigo?

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Vishal Pawar: Vertigo poses a complex diagnostic challenge that typically requires a detailed understanding of the vestibular system and its functions. Video-Nystagmography (VNG) stands out as a crucial diagnostic tool in this context, providing a non-invasive and precise examination of eye movements to assess the integrity of the vestibular system. This discussion explores the nuances of VNG, clarifying its methodology, objectives, and critical role in diagnosing conditions associated with vertigo.

AudiologyOnline: Why do the eyes move?

Vishal Pawar:  Eye movements are crucial for optimal functioning of the visual system, enabling us to effectively interact with our environment. These movements facilitate rapid shifts in fixation points, ensuring that the image of interest remains within the fovea's small region, where visual acuity is the highest. This capability is essential for activities such as reading, recognizing faces, and navigating complex environments. Additionally, eye movements serve as indicators of neurological health, reflecting the activity of brain regions responsible for processing visual stimuli and coordinating motor responses.

AudiologyOnline: How do the eyes move?

Vishal Pawar: Eye movements result from the coordinated efforts of a complex network comprising muscles, nerves, and brain regions, all working together to enable precise visual tracking and gaze stabilization. To fully grasp how eyes move, it's crucial to understand the roles played by the extraocular muscles, the cranial nerves that innervate these muscles, and the neural pathways and brain regions that oversee their control.

AudiologyOnline: Can you elaborate on the role of extraocular muscles and their actions?

Vishal Pawar: The human eye is controlled by six extraocular muscles. The four rectus muscles—medial, lateral, superior, and inferior—govern the eye's primary movements in the cardinal directions. The medial rectus muscle moves the eye inward (adduction), while the lateral rectus muscle moves it outward (abduction). The superior rectus muscle acts to elevate the eye when it is turned outward (abducted) and rolls the eye inward (intorts) when turned inward (adducted). Conversely, the inferior rectus muscle lowers the eye when abducted and rolls it outward (extorts) when adducted. The two oblique muscles, superior and inferior, further aid in rotating the eye; the superior oblique primarily depresses the eye when it's turned inward and intorts it when abducted, and the inferior oblique elevates the eye when adducted and extorts it when abducted. Additionally, the levator palpebrae superioris muscle is crucial for lifting the eyelid, providing essential visual access and forming an integral part of the eye movement system.

AudiologyOnline: Could you discuss the involvement of cranial nerves in eye movement?

Vishal Pawar: Eye movements are controlled by three specific cranial nerves. The oculomotor nerve (Cranial Nerve III) innervates all the extraocular muscles, with the exception of the superior oblique and lateral rectus muscles. The trochlear nerve (Cranial Nerve IV) exclusively controls the superior oblique muscle, and the abducens nerve (Cranial Nerve VI) governs the lateral rectus muscle. These nerves originate from distinct nuclei in the brainstem and extend to their respective target muscles. The term 'oculomotor' specifically refers to the third cranial nerve, whereas 'ocular motor' broadly includes all nerves involved in eye movements: the III, IV, and VI nerves.

AudiologyOnline: Can you explain the role of neural pathways and brain control in coordinating eye movements?

Vishal Pawar: Eye movement coordination relies heavily on interneuronal pathways. For example, the medial longitudinal fasciculus is a crucial pathway that enables communication between the ocular motor nuclei, ensuring synchronized movement of both eyes. Key components also include various types of premotor neurons: omnipause neurons, which temporarily halt eye movements between saccades; excitatory burst neurons, which initiate rapid eye movements; inhibitory burst neurons; and the neural integrator, which maintains eye stability between movements. Supranuclear control represents the high-level management of eye movements by brain areas situated above the cranial nerve nuclei. The frontal eye field within the cerebral cortex plays a vital role in controlling voluntary eye movements, such as saccades, while other associated areas contribute to the complex processes required for initiating and regulating eye movements.

AudiologyOnline: How are eye movements coordinated with head movements?

Vishal Pawar: The coordination of eye movements with head movements is primarily managed by the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), which is crucial for maintaining stable vision. The VOR precisely aligns eye movements with head movements to keep the visual field constant on the retina, thus ensuring clear vision even during motion. This reflex highlights the complex interaction between the vestibular system, which detects head movements, and the ocular motor system.

Overall, eye movement is a highly orchestrated process that involves precise muscle actions, sophisticated neural pathways, and complex brain regions. This intricate coordination is essential for everyday tasks such as reading, tracking moving objects, and navigating through the environment. By understanding the roles of each component in this complex system, we can better appreciate how we visually perceive and interact with our surroundings.

AudiologyOnline: What are the functional classes of eye movements?

Vishal Pawar: Eye movements are classified into several functional types, each serving a distinct purpose:

  • Saccades enable rapid movement of the eyes to shift the focus of gaze onto different objects, quickly bringing images of interest onto the fovea.
  • Smooth Pursuit maintains the image of a moving target on the fovea, or keeps a small target close to the head steady on the retina during linear movements, complementing optokinetic responses to stabilize gaze during sustained head rotations.
  • Optokinetic response holds images steady on the retina during continuous head rotations or translations, aiding in visual stability.
  • Fixation involves maintaining the visual gaze on a stationary object, minimizing ocular drifts to keep the image focused on the fovea.
  • Vergence adjusts the eyes in opposite directions to ensure that an object can be seen with both eyes simultaneously, focusing the image on each eye’s fovea.
  • Vestibular response stabilizes images on the retina during brief head movements or translations, integrating sensory inputs from the vestibular system to support balance and orientation.

These classes of eye movements are crucial for navigating our environment, reading, and engaging in activities that require precise visual coordination. By understanding these distinct functional classes, we gain deeper insights into the sophisticated mechanisms of vision and eye movement coordination.

AudiologyOnline: What are the techniques used for eye movement recording?

Vishal Pawar: There are several techniques available for recording eye movements, each critical for diagnosing vestibular disorders:

  • Electronystagmography (ENG): This technique measures the electrical potential between the front and back of the eye as it moves, using electrodes placed around the eyes. ENG is useful for assessing vestibular function and diagnosing nystagmus, though it is susceptible to electrical interference and requires skin contact with electrodes.
  • Video-oculography (VOG): VOG employs video camera systems to track eye movements. It is a non-invasive, more comfortable alternative that offers high accuracy and is suitable for a broad range of patients. VOG, also known as Video-nystagmography (VNG), is favored for its ease of use and minimal requirements for patient preparation.
  • Scleral Search Coil (SSC): This highly precise method involves a contact lens with an embedded coil, providing the highest accuracy in tracking all eye movements, including horizontal, vertical, torsional, and 3D rotations. However, its invasiveness limits its use primarily to research settings.

Here’s a table that summarizes the main features of each technique:

FEATURE

ELECTRONYSTAGMOGRAPHY (ENG)

VIDEO-NYSTAGMOGRAPHY (VNG)

SCLERAL SEARCH COIL (SSC)

METHOD

measures electrical potential generated by eye movement

tracks eye movements with a video camera

tracks eye movements with a magnetic field and coil placed on the sclera

ACCURACY

moderate

high         

highest

PORTABILITY

high

moderate

low

COST

moderate

moderate

high

DATA CAPTURED

primarily horizontal and vertical eye movements

horizontal, vertical, and torsional eye movements

all eye movements (horizontal, vertical, torsional, and 3D rotations)

LIMITATIONS

susceptible to electrical interference, requires skin contact with electrodes

limited by camera resolution and field of view, requires good head stabilization

requires specialized equipment and expertise, invasive procedure (placing coil)

APPLICATIONS

assessing vestibular function, diagnosing nystagmus, monitoring for neurological conditions

similar to ENG, plus evaluation of gaze instability and smooth pursuit

research on eye movement control, studying vestibular function in detail

 

Each of these methods has its particular advantages and limitations, making them suitable for different clinical and research applications.

AudiologyOnline: Can you describe the VNG protocols for testing?

Vishal Pawar: Video-nystagmography (VNG) testing protocols are meticulously designed to provide a thorough evaluation of the vestibular system and its influence on eye movements. These protocols encompass a variety of tests:

  • Saccades: This test measures the rapid movement of the eyes between two fixed points, assessing the quickness and accuracy of the eyes' ability to change focus.
  • Smooth Pursuit: This test evaluates how smoothly the eyes can follow moving objects, which is crucial for tracking objects in motion within the visual field.
  • Optokinetic Testing: This assesses the eyes' response to large, continually moving visual patterns, important for determining how well the eyes can follow objects in busy environments.
  • Spontaneous Testing: Observes eye movements when the gaze is fixed (without specific fixation targets), helping to identify involuntary eye movements or nystagmus.
  • Gaze Testing: Determines the ability to maintain gaze in various directions, useful for diagnosing issues with gaze stability.
  • Head Shaking Test: Evaluates the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) by observing eye movements following rapid, brief head movements, which helps assess how well the vestibular system responds to changes in head position.
  • Hyperventilation Testing: Assesses changes in eye movements following periods of rapid breathing, which can indicate susceptibility to certain types of vestibular dysfunction.
  • Positional Testing: Examines eye movements as the head and body are placed in various positions, crucial for identifying positional vertigo or other related conditions.

Each of these tests provides valuable insights into the different aspects of the vestibular and ocular motor systems, helping clinicians diagnose and treat disorders related to vertigo and other balance issues effectively.

AudiologyOnline: What role do VNG testing protocols play in diagnosing vestibular disorders?

Vishal Pawar: VNG testing protocols are essential in the diagnosis of vestibular disorders. These protocols evaluate the functionality of the vestibular system, particularly its role in maintaining balance and spatial orientation. By analyzing eye movements in response to diverse stimuli and conditions, clinicians can pinpoint abnormalities that suggest vestibular dysfunctions. This capability is especially critical for diagnosing conditions associated with vertigo, as it offers deep insights into the origins of symptoms and aids in formulating effective treatment strategies.

Resources for More Information 

View these AudiologyOnline courses:

Don't miss the interview on AudiologyOnline, Overview of Central Vestibular Disorders and Ask the Expert, What are the different protocols in ocular motor testing, and how do they help manage patients with vertigo? Discover our solutions for vestibular analysis on our website: https://www.inventis.it/en-na

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vishal pawar

Vishal Pawar

Dr. Vishal Pawar is a highly skilled specialist neurologist with over a decade of experience in neurology and oto-neurology. He completed his MBBS, DNB in Medicine, and DNB in Neurology in India and has been a valuable member of the Aster Gardens specialty clinic in Dubai for seven years. Dr. Pawar's expertise lies in vestibular medicine and headache disorders, and he has actively contributed to patient care, academics, and research in these areas. He has earned recognition as a Fellow of the European Board of Neurology and has established a dedicated vertigo clinic.



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