Downbeat nystagmus (DBN) is a frequent sign in patients with cerebellar degeneration. It consists of an upward drift of the eye that does not depend on vertical head position (spontaneous drift, SD), a gravity-dependent component (GD), and a gaze-evoked drift reflecting gaze-holding impairment (deficient neural integrator function). The potassium-channel blocker 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) is reported to reduce DBN in patients with cerebellar atrophy but with little or no effect in patients with idiopathic DBN. We prospectively studied the effect of 4-AP on all three components in a large (n = 24) group of the clinically frequent idiopathic DBN. DBN was reduced by 22-31% when the head was off the head erect position. In contrast, there was no effect on vertical gaze-evoked drift. This indicates the therapeutic efficacy of 4-AP not only in patients with cerebellar atrophy but also in idiopathic DBN patients. This beneficial effect, which might be missed when gravity-dependent head positions are not tested, was not related to an improvement of gaze-holding deficit. We suggest it may be related to the restored inhibition of the overacting otolith-ocular reflex.