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Money - 1974 - Heavy water nystagmus and the effects of alcohol


Money K, Myles W. Heavy water nystagmus and effects of alcohol. Nature. 1974 Feb;274:404-5. DOI

10 Word Summary

Alcohol or heavy water changes neutral buoyancy of the inner ear.


AFTER drinking a large dose of ethyl alcohol (1 or 2 g of alcohol kg-1 of body weight), a phenomenon called positional alcohol nystagmus (PAN) occurs. Nystagmus is an involuntary oscillating movement of the eyeballs in which they repeatedly turn slowly in one direction and fast in the reverse direction. The nystagmus that starts 30 min or so after drinking alcohol (PAN I) is called positional because it occurs only when the head is held in certain positions relative to gravity. When the head is held with the right side down, the eyes turn (with a frequency of roughly two complete oscillation s-1) fast to the right, slowly to the left, fast to the right, and so on. Nystagmus is named after the prominent fast movements, and this nystagmus is called nystagmus 'to the right'. When the head is held with the left side down after alcohol, the resulting nystagmus is to the left.


  • Consuming alcohol or heavy water disrupts the neutral buoyancy of the cupola in the inner ear, causing vertigo and nausea.