Nouvelle publication dans Journal of Neurophysiology, Laurence Mouchnino et al.
Cortical facilitation of somatosensory inputs using gravity-related tactile information in humans with vestibular hypofunction
Marie Fabre, Laura Beullier, Chloé Sutter, Amirreza Kebritchi, Pascale Chavet, Martin Simoneau, Michel Toupet, Jean Blouin, and Laurence Mouchnino
A few years after their bilateral vestibular loss, patients usually show a motor repertoire that is almost back to normal. This recovery is thought to involve an upregulation of the visual and proprioceptive information that compensates for the lack of vestibular information. Here, we investigated whether plantar tactile inputs, which provide body information relative to the ground and to the Earth vertical, contribute to this compensation. More specifically, we tested the hypothesis that somatosensory cortex response to electric stimulation of the plantar sole in standing adults will be greater in humans (n = 10) with bilateral vestibular hypofunction (VH) than in an age-matched healthy group (n = 10). Showing significantly greater somatosensory evoked potentials (i.e., P1N1) in VH than in control subjects, the electroencephalographic recordings supported this hypothesis. Furthermore, we found evidence that increasing the differential pressure between both feet, by adding a 1-kg mass at each pendant wrist, enhanced the internal representation of body orientation and motion relative to a gravitational reference frame. The large decrease in alpha power in the right posterior parietal cortex (and not in the left) is in line with this assumption. Finally, behavioral analyses showed that trunk oscillations were smaller than head oscillations in VH and showed a reverse pattern for healthy participants. These findings are consistent with a tactile-based postural control strategy in the absence of vestibular input and a vestibular-based control strategy in healthy participants where the head serves as a reference for balance control.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Somatosensory cortex excitability is greater in participants with bilateral vestibular hypofunction than in age-matched healthy humans. To control balance, healthy humans “locked” the head whereas participants with vestibular hypofunction “locked” their pelvis. For participants with vestibular hypofunction, increasing loading/unloading of the feet enhances the internal representation of body state in the posterior parietal cortex.