Background: Latent nystagmus is a horizontal binocular oscillation that is evoked by unequal visual input to the 2 eyes. It develops primarily in humans with congenital esotropia. Objective: To investigate the interrelationship between latent and peripheral vestibular nystagmus and their corollary neuroanatomical pathways. Methods: Examination of subcortical neuroanatomical pathways producing latent nystagmus and review of the neurophysiological mechanisms by which they become activated in congenital esotropia. Results: The vestibular nucleus presides over motion input from the eyes and labyrinths. Latent nystagmus corresponds to the optokinetic component of ocular rotation that is driven monocularly by nasal optic flow during a turning movement of the body in lateral-eyed animals. Congenital esotropia alters visual pathway development from the visual cortex to subcortical centers that project to the vestibular nucleus, allowing this primitive subcortical motion detection system to generate latent nystagmus under conditions of monocular fixation. Conclusions: Latent nystagmus is the ocular counterpart of peripheral vestibular nystagmus. Its clinical expression in humans proclaims the evolutionary function of the eyes as sensory balance organs.
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