Spasmus nutans

Spasmus nutans is a specific type of pendular nystagmus of infancy accompanied by head bobbing and occasionally by abnormal position of the neck.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors 
Spasmus nutans involves a triad of symptoms which includes horizontal, vertical, or pendular nystagmus (fine, rapid jerking of the eyes back and forth, and from side to side), head nodding, and head tilting.

Most cases begin between age 4 months and 1 year. It usually goes away by itself in several months to years. Less commonly it may be associated with other causative conditions. Rarely, symptoms like those of spasmus nutans may be produced by tumors in the optic chiasm or third ventricle of the brain.


  • Nystagmus (fine, rapid jerking of the eyes from side to side)  
  • Head nodding  
  • Head tilting

Signs and tests 
A neurologic examination confirms the presence of the symptoms.

Tests may include:

The benign form of spasmus nutans requires no treatment. Other conditions causing spasmus nutans must be treated individually.

Expectations (prognosis) 
Usually, there is a spontaneous resolution.

There are usually no complications.

Calling your health care provider 
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if your child has nystagmus, head nodding, or other symptoms (to rule out causative conditions such as tumors).

Not applicable.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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