OBJECTIVE: We investigated the effect of alcohol on the cervical and ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (cVEMPs and oVEMPs). As alcohol produces gaze-evoked nystagmus (GEN), we also tested the effect of nystagmus independent of alcohol by recording oVEMPs during optokinetic stimulation (OKS).
METHODS: The effect of alcohol was tested in 14 subjects over multiple rounds of alcohol consumption up to a maximum breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) of 1.5‰ (mean 0.97‰). The effect of OKS was tested in 11 subjects at 5, 10 and 15deg/sec.
RESULTS: oVEMP amplitude decreased from baseline to the highest BrAC level by 27% (range 5-50%, P<0.001), but there was no significant effect on oVEMP latency or cVEMP amplitude or latency. There was a significant negative effect of OKS on oVEMP amplitude (16%, P=0.006).
CONCLUSIONS: We found a selective effect of alcohol on oVEMP amplitude, but no effect on the cVEMP. Vertical nystagmus elicited by OKS reduced oVEMP amplitude.
SIGNIFICANCE: Alcohol selectively affects oVEMP amplitude. Despite the effects of alcohol and nystagmus, both reflexes were reliably recorded in all subjects and conditions. An absent response in a patient affected by alcohol or nystagmus indicates a vestibular deficit.