Promethazine affects optokinetic but not vestibular responses in monkeys

M. Dai, H. Kaufmann, T. Raphan, B. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Promethazine is used to treat motion sickness including Space Adaptation Syndrome, but there is incomplete information about how it affects vestibular and optokinetic responses. Methods: Vestibular and optokinetic nystagmus, recorded with eye coils, were characterized in monkeys after administration of promethazine at dosages approximately equivalent to those used by humans in space. Results: The initial increase of horizontal eye velocity during optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) was reduced after receiving the drug. Consequently, it took a longer time for eye velocity to rise to 60% of steady state value, the normal initial jump in eye velocity. Steady state OKN, maximum gains of optokinetic after-nystagmus (OKAN) and OKAN falling time constants were unaffected. The gains and time constants of the horizontal, vertical and roll angular vestibulo-ocular reflex (aVOR), the amplitude and velocity of saccades, and ocular counter-rolling (OCR), induced by off-vertical axis rotation (OVAR) were unaffected by promethazine. A two-component optokinetic model simulated the data simply by reducing the gain of the initial (rapid) component of OKN. A reduction in coupling between a non-linear element and the velocity storage integrator was required to simulate some vertical OKN data. Conclusions: Promethazine reduces the gain of the direct visual-oculomotor pathway in monkeys. It has little effect on saccades, the gain and time constant of the aVOR and the low frequency linear vestibulo-ocular reflex (IVOR), which orients the eyes during ocular counterrolling. The optokinetic deficit is consistent with reported reduction in ocular pursuit and VOR suppression after promethazine in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1012
Number of pages10
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000


  • Monkey
  • Nystagmus
  • OKN
  • Oculomotor
  • Promethazine
  • VOR


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