A new technique to investigate vestibulospinal reflexes

C. Grasso, P. Orsini, L. Bruschini, D. Manzoni, M. Barresi


Vestibulospinal reflexes can be elicited in humans by low amplitudes direct (galvanic) currents lasting tens of milliseconds and applied across the two mastoids bones, which can be delivered by particular stimulators. The stimulus induces a perception of body sway and a postural response appropriate to counteract the perceived sway. Both the direction of the perceived and induced body sway are modulated by the orientation of the head with respect to the body. This phenomenon is due to the fact that integration of vestibular and neck signals allows to correctly infer the direction of body sway from the labyrinthine input, which is instead related to direction of head motion. The modulation of stimulus-elicited body sway by neck rotation could be utilised for testing the effectiveness of neck proprioceptive signals in modifying the reference frame for labyrinthine signals from the head to the body. In the present experiments we showed that labyrinthine stimulation can be performed also by using train of pulses of 1 msec duration, which can be delivered by virtually all stimulators allowed for human use. Moreover, we developed a simple technique for visualising the time course of the changes in the direction of the postural response, based on the evaluation of the velocity vector of subject’s centre of pressure. This method could be exploited in order to the test the efficacy of neck proprioceptive information in modifying the reference frame for processing vestibular signals in both physiological and pathological condition.


vestibular System, electrical stimulation, neck rotation, body sway

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4449/aib.v151i2.1487


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