Me talk pretty – Vestibulo-ocular reflex

Hello and welcome to the first segment of “me talk pretty” where I bring you tongue twisting terms from the most remote corners of physiology. This week’s super sexy, fancy-pants physio term is….

“Vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR)”

This is a highly adapted eye reflex in humans that keeps images fixed or stablized on the retina (in the center of your visual field) by allowing the eyes to move in the opposite direction of head movement like a compass needle that points to magnetic north no matter how much the ship tosses on the waves. Your VOR is incredibly fast (fraction of a second) and it needs to be in order to compensate for even the most subtle head rotation along an axial plane (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal). It is what makes clear vision possible. If you were a catcher for the Yankees and your VOR were a fraction of a second off you would be grabbing for blurry fast balls at 90+ mph, but hey, who wants to live forever? (No one should be grabbing for blurry balls) So the next time you’re trying to read your Vanity Fair magazine on a Chinatown bus with bad suspension, finish a sudoku puzzle on a plane while someone’s devil spawned child is throwing a fit and kicking the back of the seat, or just trying to check out the fit brunette jogging by out of the corner of your eye, remember to thank your VOR for keeping that image nice and clear.