Magnetic-field-induced vertigo: a theoretical and experimental investigation

Bioelectromagnetics. 2007 Jul;28(5):349-61. doi: 10.1002/bem.20316.


Vertigo-like sensations or apparent perception of movement are reported by some subjects and operators in and around high field whole body magnetic resonance body scanners. Induced currents (which modulate the firing rate of the vestibular hair cell), magneto-hydrodynamics (MDH), and tissue magnetic susceptibility differences have all been proposed as possible mechanisms for this effect. In this article, we examine the theory underlying each of these mechanisms and explore resulting predictions. Experimental evidence is summarised in the following findings: 30% of subjects display a postural sway response at a field-gradient product of 1 T(2)m(-1); a determining factor for experience of vertigo is the total unipolar integrated field change over a period greater than 1 s; the perception of dizziness is not necessarily related to a high value of the rate of change of magnetic field; eight of ten subjects reported sensations ranging from mild to severe when exposed to a magnetic field change of the order of 4.7 T in 1.9 s; no subjects reported any response when exposed to 50 ms pulses of dB/dt of 2 Ts(-1) amplitude. The experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that magnetic-field related vertigo results from both magnetic susceptibility differences between vestibular organs and surrounding fluid, and induced currents acting on the vestibular hair cells. Both mechanisms are consistent with theoretical predictions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Hair Cells, Vestibular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / adverse effects
  • Magnetics / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Posture
  • Vertigo / etiology*