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Concept: Vestibular system


OBJECTIVE: We investigated the potential of galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) to quantify lateralised asymmetry of the vestibulospinal pathways by measuring balance responses to monaural GVS in 10 subjects with vestibular schwannoma and 22 healthy control subjects. METHODS: Subjects standing without vision were stimulated with 3s, 1mA direct current stimuli delivered monaurally. The mean magnitude and direction of the evoked balance responses in the horizontal plane were measured from ground-reaction forces and from displacement and velocity of the trunk. Vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials (VEMPs) to 500Hz air and bone-conducted tones were also recorded. RESULTS: In healthy subjects, the magnitudes of the force, velocity and displacement responses were not significantly different for left compared to right ear stimulation. Their individual asymmetry ratios were always <30%. Subjects with vestibular schwannoma had significantly smaller force, velocity and displacement responses to stimulation of the affected compared with non-affected ear. Their mean asymmetry ratios were significantly elevated for all three measures (41.2±10.3%, 40.3±15.1% and 21.9±14.6%). CONCLUSIONS: Asymmetry ratios of balance responses to monaural GVS provide a quantitative and clinically applicable lateralising test of the vestibulospinal pathways. SIGNIFICANCE: This method offers a more clinically relevant measure of standing balance than existing vestibular function tests which assess only vestibuloocular and vestibulocollic pathways.

Concepts: Measurement, Mass, Vestibular system, Force, Potential energy, Velocity, Horizontal plane, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


Vestibular inputs make a key contribution to the sense of one’s own spatial location. While the effects of vestibular stimulation on visuo-spatial processing in neurological patients have been extensively described, the normal contribution of vestibular inputs to spatial perception remains unclear. To address this issue, we used a line bisection task to investigate the effects of galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) on spatial perception, and on the transition between near and far space. Brief left-anodal and right-cathodal GVS or right-anodal and left-cathodal GVS were delivered. A sham stimulation condition was also included. Participants bisected lines of different lengths at six distances from the body using a laser pointer. Consistent with previous results, our data showed an overall shift in the bisection bias from left to right as viewing distance increased. This pattern suggests leftward bias in near space, and rightward bias in far space. GVS induced strong polarity dependent effects in spatial perception, broadly consistent with those previously reported in patients: left-anodal and right-cathodal GVS induced a leftward bisection bias, while right-anodal and left-cathodal GVS reversed this effect, and produced bisection bias toward the right side of the space. Interestingly, the effects of GVS were comparable in near and far space. We speculate that vestibular-induced biases in space perception may optimize gathering of information from different parts of the environment.

Concepts: Left-wing politics, Perception, Vestibular system, Space, Right-wing politics, Distance, Political spectrum, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) on postural control for participants of different physical activity status (i.e. active and non-active). Two groups of participants were recruited: one group of participants who regularly practised sports activities (active group, n = 17), and one group of participants who did not practise physical and/or sports activities (non-active group, n = 17). They were compared in a reference condition (i.e bipedal stance with eyes open) and four vestibular manipulation condition (i.e. GVS at 0.5 mA and 3 mA, in accordance with two designs) lasting 20 seconds. The centre of foot pressure displacement velocities were compared between the two groups. The main results indicate that the regular practice of sports activities counteracts postural control disruption caused by GVS. The active group demonstrated better postural control than the non-active group when subjected to higher vestibular manipulation. The active group may have developed their ability to reduce the influence of inaccurate vestibular signals. The active participants could identify the relevant sensory input, thought a better central integration, which enables them to switch faster between sensory inputs.

Concepts: Systems theory, Vestibular system, Output, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


When using our arms to interact with the world, unintended body motion can introduce movement error. A mechanism which could detect and compensate for such motion would be beneficial. Observations of arm movements evoked by vestibular stimulation provide some support for this mechanism. However, the physiological function underlying these artificially-evoked movements is unclear from previous research. For such a mechanism to be functional, it should only operate when the arm is being controlled in an earth-fixed rather than body-fixed reference frame. In the latter case, compensation would be unnecessary and even deleterious. To test this hypothesis, subjects were gently rotated in a chair while asked to maintain their outstretched arm pointing either towards earth-fixed (EF) or body-fixed (BF) memorised targets. Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) was applied concurrently during rotation to isolate the influence of vestibular input, uncontaminated by inertial factors. During the EF task, GVS produced large polarity-dependent corrections in arm position. These corrections mimicked those evoked when chair velocity was altered without any GVS, indicating a compensatory arm response to a sensation of altered body motion. In stark contrast, corrections were completely absent during the BF task, despite the same chair movement profile and arm posture. These effects persisted when we controlled for differences in limb kinematics between the two tasks. Our results demonstrate that vestibular control of the upper-limb maintains reaching accuracy during unpredictable body motion. The observation that such responses only occurred when reaching within an EF reference frame confirms the functional nature of vestibular-evoked arm movement. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Scientific method, Observation, Vestibular system, Classical mechanics, Special relativity, Copyright, Frame of reference, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


Vestibular dysfunction causes postural instability, which is prevalent in the elderly. We previously showed that an imperceptible level of noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation (nGVS) can improve postural stability in patients with bilateral vestibulopathy during the stimulus, presumably by enhancing vestibular information processing. In this study, we investigated the after-effects of an imperceptible long-duration nGVS on body balance in elderly adults. Thirty elderly participants underwent two nGVS sessions in a randomised order. In Session 1, participants received nGVS for 30 min twice with a 4-h interval. In Session 2, participants received nGVS for 3 h. Two-legged stance tasks were performed with eyes closed while participants stood on a foam rubber surface, with and without nGVS, and parameters related to postural stability were measured using posturography. In both sessions, the postural stability was markedly improved for more than 2 h after the cessation of the stimulus and tended to decrease thereafter. The second stimulation in Session 1 caused a moderate additional improvement in body balance and promoted the sustainability of the improvement. These results suggest that nGVS can lead to a postural stability improvement in elderly adults that lasts for several hours after the cessation of the stimulus, probably via vestibular neuroplasticity.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Death, Vestibular system, Stability, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is the fastest living land mammal. Because of its specialized hunting strategy, this species evolved a series of specialized morphological and functional body features to increase its exceptional predatory performance during high-speed hunting. Using high-resolution X-ray computed micro-tomography (μCT), we provide the first analyses of the size and shape of the vestibular system of the inner ear in cats, an organ essential for maintaining body balance and adapting head posture and gaze direction during movement in most vertebrates. We demonstrate that the vestibular system of modern cheetahs is extremely different in shape and proportions relative to other cats analysed (12 modern and two fossil felid species), including a closely-related fossil cheetah species. These distinctive attributes (i.e., one of the greatest volumes of the vestibular system, dorsal extension of the anterior and posterior semicircular canals) correlate with a greater afferent sensitivity of the inner ear to head motions, facilitating postural and visual stability during high-speed prey pursuit and capture. These features are not present in the fossil cheetah A. pardinensis, that went extinct about 126,000 years ago, demonstrating that the unique and highly specialized inner ear of the sole living species of cheetah likely evolved extremely recently, possibly later than the middle Pleistocene.

Concepts: Vestibular system, Inner ear, Lion, Felidae, Cougar, Cheetah, Acinonyx, Felinae


Because there are currently no biological treatments for hearing loss, we sought to advance gene therapy approaches to treat genetic deafness. We focused on Usher syndrome, a devastating genetic disorder that causes blindness, balance disorders and profound deafness, and studied a knock-in mouse model, Ush1c c.216G>A, for Usher syndrome type IC (USH1C). As restoration of complex auditory and balance function is likely to require gene delivery systems that target auditory and vestibular sensory cells with high efficiency, we delivered wild-type Ush1c into the inner ear of Ush1c c.216G>A mice using a synthetic adeno-associated viral vector, Anc80L65, shown to transduce 80-90% of sensory hair cells. We demonstrate recovery of gene and protein expression, restoration of sensory cell function, rescue of complex auditory function and recovery of hearing and balance behavior to near wild-type levels. The data represent unprecedented recovery of inner ear function and suggest that biological therapies to treat deafness may be suitable for translation to humans with genetic inner ear disorders.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Biology, Auditory system, Cochlea, Vestibular system, Inner ear


The semicircular canals (SCs), part of the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear, are directly involved in the detection of angular motion of the head for maintaining balance, and exhibit adaptive patterns for locomotor behaviour. Consequently, they are generally believed to show low levels of intraspecific morphological variation, but few studies have investigated this assumption. On the basis of high-resolution computed tomography, we present here, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive study of the pattern of variation of the inner ear with a focus on Xenarthra. Our study demonstrates that extant three-toed sloths show a high level of morphological variation of the bony labyrinth of the inner ear. Especially, the variation in shape, relative size and angles of their SCs greatly differ from those of other, faster-moving taxa within Xenarthra and Placentalia in general. The unique pattern of variation in three-toed sloths suggests that a release of selection and/or constraints on their organ of balance is associated with the observed wide range of phenotypes. This release is coincident with their slow and infrequent locomotion and may be related, among other possible factors, to a reduced functional demand for a precise sensitivity to movement.

Concepts: Vestibular system, Mammal, Ear, Inner ear, Three-toed sloth, Sloth, Xenarthra, Labyrinthitis


Successful interaction with the external environment requires a balance between novel or exploratory and routine or exploitative behaviours. This distinction is often expressed in terms of location or orientation of the body relative to surrounding space: functions in which the vestibular system plays an important role. However, the distinction can also be applied to novel versus repetitive production of any behaviour or symbol. Here, we investigated whether vestibular inputs contribute to the balance between novel and routine behaviours, independently of their effects on spatial orienting, by assessing effects of galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) on a random number generation task. Right-anodal/left-cathodal GVS, which preferentially activates the left cerebral hemisphere decreased the randomness of the sequence, while left-anodal/right-cathodal GVS, which preferentially activates the right hemisphere increased it. GVS did not induce any spatial biases in locations chosen from the number line. Our results suggest that vestibular stimulation of each hemisphere has a specific effect on the balance between novel and routine actions. We found no evidence for effects of non-specific arousal due to GVS on random number generation, and no evidence for effects on number generation consistent with modulation of spatial attention due to GVS.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Vestibular system, Randomness, Randomization, Cerebral hemisphere, Hardware random number generator, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation, Statistical randomness


Objective: To investigate the insertion speed and its impact on electrode insertion characteristics, hearing preservation and clinical vestibular function in a prospective cohort study with a retrospective control group at a tertiary otology/neurotology centre. Interventions: Hearing-preserving cochlear implantation using systemic and topical steroids in conjunction with a round-window approach, a complete cochlear coverage electrode and two different electrode insertion speeds [60 mm/min (n = 18) vs. 15 mm/min (n = 22)] was performed. Results: The insertion speed had a significant impact on various insertion characteristics as well as hearing preservation and vestibular function. In conclusion, a slow electrode insertion speed appears to facilitate full electrode insertion, reduce the occurrence of insertion resistance as well as promote preservation of residual hearing and vestibular function after cochlear implantation.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Auditory system, Cochlea, Hearing impairment, Vestibular system, Ear, Sensorineural hearing loss, Inner ear