On Nystagmus

I don’t think the condition that was being described by the writer was actually Nystagmus. I can do the same thing - rapidly move my eyes back and forth at will. So can my father, and several of my friends. All of the info that I’ve been able to look up on Nystagmus seems to suggest that it is almost always involuntary. In fact, the only time I can seem to find that is even partially voluntary is when any person tracks rapidly moving objects with their eyes. Thoughts?

Column being referenced: I can make my eyes shimmy… – CKDH

I was asked to write a mini-FAQ about nystagmus for another message board once – it’s far too indepth for all purposes and I don’t think I’ll post it.

I can voluntarily make my eyes shake too, and I can prolong it for a while (several seconds). I’ve demonstrated this ability to others; in my experience, nystagmus is not all that impressive as a ‘parlor trick’. Not even when the audience is intoxicated. I’m not sure when I gained the ability, or why.

Incidentally, I can also voluntarily cause ‘adrenaline rushes’, which potentially could mean big savings on skydiving and bungee-jumping costs for some members of the population. I’ve always wondered how common it is. I’ve never seen any documentation of it, and I’d like to know if anyone in here can do it or knows about it.

Also, caloric nystagmus, triggered by pouring water into the ears, has given rise to a medical-student mnemonic: COWS, ‘cold water to the opposite side, warm water to the same side’.

I’ll post the first two references for my mini-FAQ rather than the FAQ itself. These should suffice to provide everything anyone, including ophthalmologists, could possibly want to know about nystagmus.

  1. Beers, M.H and Berkow, R. (Editors). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 17th edition. Merck & Co., 1999. Internet edition: http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/
  2. Hain, Timothy, M.D. Nystagmus. http://www.tchain.com/otoneurology/practice/nystagmus.html

Shaking one’s eyes is, in my opinion of course, simply very fine and rapid VOLUNTARY control.

As for the other wierd feeling around/just below the stomach, I too can do that. Usually the feeling extends throughout my body if I concentrate hard enough…if that makes sense to anyone. To me it seems like it’s an empty feeling, however, I have no idea what it is, or what it means.


The column being discussed is I can make my eyes shimmy. Is that normal?

I’ve been able to do the ol’ wiggle-your-eyes bit for more than 30 years, and I have always been able to do it when I wanted to (as opposed to its happening out of the blue, for no reason).

I can do it for several seconds as well, although if I really wanted to I could probably do it nearly eternally. It is not painful, and every eye doctor I’ve consulted has thought it to be completely harmless.