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Increased visual dependence and otolith dysfunction with alcohol intoxication

Hafstrom, Anna; Modig, Fredrik; Karlberg, Mikael; Fransson, Per-Anders

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328013e3eb

Alcohol intoxication affects the vestibular system and balance control in many ways. We have investigated how acute, moderate (blood alcohol concentrations of 0.06±0.01%), and high (0.10±0.02%) alcohol intoxication affects the ability to perceive the visual horizontal and vertical and the visual field dependence measured with the rod and frame tests in 24 healthy participants. Alcohol ingestion impaired the ability to use gravitational vestibular cues when determining the visual vertical and horizontal, and caused increased visual field dependence. With conflicting gravitational and visual information, alcohol seems to promote a reweighting in balance control from a vestibular to a more visual dependency. Furthermore, the results indicate that alcohol intoxication at these levels start instigating a decompensation of minute subclinical vestibular asymmetries.

Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University Hospital of Lund, Lund, Sweden

Correspondence to Dr Anna Hafstrom, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden

Tel: +46 46 171705; fax: +46 46 2110968; e-mail:

Received 24 September 2006; accepted 3 November 2006

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.