Electrical stimulation of the peripheral and central vestibular system


  • Lopez Christophe
  • Cullen Kathleen E


  • Electrical brain stimulation
  • Epilepsy
  • Galvanic vestibular stimulation
  • Vestibular cortex
  • Vestibular system

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Purpose of review Electrical stimulation of the peripheral and central vestibular system using noninvasive (galvanic vestibular stimulation, GVS) or invasive (intracranial electrical brain stimulation, iEBS) approaches have a long history of use in studying self-motion perception and balance control. The aim of this review is to summarize recent electrophysiological studies of the effects of GVS, and functional mapping of the central vestibular system using iEBS in awake patients. Recent findings The use of GVS has become increasingly common in the assessment and treatment of a wide range of clinical disorders including vestibulopathy and Parkinson's disease. The results of recent single unit recording studies have provided new insight into the neural mechanisms underlying GVS-evoked improvements in perceptual and motor responses. Furthermore, the application of iEBS in patients with epilepsy or during awake brain surgery has provided causal evidence of vestibular information processing in mostly the middle cingulate cortex, posterior insula, inferior parietal lobule, amygdala, precuneus, and superior temporal gyrus. Summary Recent studies have established that GVS evokes robust and parallel activation of both canal and otolith afferents that is significantly different from that evoked by natural head motion stimulation. Furthermore, there is evidence that GVS can induce beneficial neural plasticity in the central pathways of patients with vestibular loss. In addition, iEBS studies highlighted an underestimated contribution of areas in the medial part of the cerebral hemispheres to the cortical vestibular network.

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