Vestibular Stimulation

ESTIMATION OF OPTIMAL STIMULUS AMPLITUDE FOR BALANCE TRAINING USING ELECTRICAL STIMULATION OF THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM

Sensorimotor changes such as postural and gait instabilities can affect the functional performance of astronauts after gravitational transitions. When astronauts are trained before flight with supra-threshold noisy, stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS), the central nervous system can be trained to reweight sensory information by using veridical information from other sensory inputs (such as vision and proprioception) for postural and gait control. This reweighting, in turn, can enhance functional performance in novel gravitational environments. However, the optimal maximum amplitude of stimulation has not yet been identified that can simulate the effect of deterioration in vestibular inputs for preflight training or for evaluating vestibular contribution in functional tests in general. Most studies have used arbitrary but fixed maximum current amplitudes from 3 to 5 mA in the mediolateral (ML) direction to disrupt balance function in both ML and anterior-posterior directions in healthy adults. The goal of this study was to determine the minimum SVS level that yields an equivalently degraded balance performance. Fourteen subjects stood on a compliant surface with their eyes closed and were instructed to maintain a stable upright stance. Measures of stability of the head, trunk, and whole body were quantified in the ML direction. Objective perceptual motion thresholds were estimated ahead of time by having subjects sit on a chair with their eyes closed and giving 1-Hz bipolar binaural sinusoidal electrical stimulation at various current amplitudes. Results from the balance task suggest that using stimulation amplitudes of 280% of motion-perceptual threshold (~2.2 mA on average) significantly degraded balance performance.


Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Posturography