Reduced postural differences between phobic postural vertigo patients and healthy subjects during a postural threat

J Neurol. 2009 Aug;256(8):1258-62. doi: 10.1007/s00415-009-5110-x. Epub 2009 Apr 12.


Phobic postural vertigo is characterized by subjective imbalance and dizziness while standing or walking, despite normal values for clinical balance tests. Patients with phobic postural vertigo exhibit an increased high-frequency sway in posturographic tests. Their postural sway, however, becomes similar to the sway of healthy subjects during difficult balance tasks. Posturographic recordings of 30 s of quiet stance was compared to recordings of 30 s of quiet stance during a postural threat, which consisted of the knowledge of forthcoming vibratory calf muscle stimulation, in 37 consecutive patients with phobic postural vertigo and 24 healthy subjects. During quiet stance without the threat of forthcoming vibratory stimulation, patients with phobic postural vertigo exhibited a postural sway containing significantly more high-frequency sway than the healthy subjects. During the quiet stance with forthcoming vibratory stimulation, i.e., anticipation of a postural threat, the significant differences between groups disappeared for all variables except sagittal high-frequency sway. During postural threat, healthy subjects seemed to adopt a postural strategy that was similar to that exhibited by phobic postural vertigo patients. The lack of additional effects facing a postural threat among phobic postural vertigo patients may be due to an already maximized postural adaptation. Deviant postural reactions among patients with phobic postural vertigo may be considered as an avoidant postural response due to a constant fear of losing postural control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fear / physiology
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Reference Values
  • Somatosensory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatosensory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Vertigo / diagnosis
  • Vertigo / physiopathology*
  • Vibration
  • Walking
  • Young Adult