UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Neurology

Title: Gaze Nystagmus

Keywords: nystagmus, cerebellar dysfunction (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/6/2008 by Aisha Liferidge, MD (Updated: 10/20/2020)
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  • Nystagmus which results from gaze (i.e. extraocular motion) in a particular direction, is detected by asking the patient to look at a target object 20 to 30 degrees to the right or left of their midline (i.e. when looking straight ahead) for 20 seconds.
  • If gaze nystagmus is present, the eye will beat towards the intended direction of gaze.
  • The ability to maintain eccentric gaze is a function of the brainstem and midline cerebellum, particularly the vestibulocerebellum. 
  • Gaze nystagmus is attributable to a central process, typically due to drugs (i.e. sedatives, anti-epileptics), alcohol, CNS tumors, or cerebellar degenerative syndromes.