A critical review of the neurophysiological evidence underlying clinical vestibular testing using sound, vibration and galvanic stimuli

Clin Neurophysiol. 2010 Feb;121(2):132-44. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2009.09.027. Epub 2009 Nov 7.

Abstract

In addition to activating cochlear receptors, air conducted sound (ACS) and bone conducted vibration (BCV) activate vestibular otolithic receptors, as shown by neurophysiological evidence from animal studies--evidence which is the foundation for using ACS and BCV for clinical vestibular testing by means of vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials (VEMPs). Recent research is elaborating the specificity of ACS and BCV on vestibular receptors. The evidence that saccular afferents can be activated by ACS has been mistakenly interpreted as showing that ACS only activates saccular afferents. That is not correct - ACS activates both saccular and utricular afferents, just as BCV activates both saccular and utricular afferents, although the patterns of activation for ACS and BCV do not appear to be identical. The otolithic input to sternocleidomastoid muscle appears to originate predominantly from the saccular macula. The otolithic input to the inferior oblique appears to originate predominantly from the utricular macula. Galvanic stimulation by surface electrodes on the mastoids very generally activates afferents from all vestibular sense organs. This review summarizes the physiological results, the potential artifacts and errors of logic in this area, reconciles apparent disagreements in this field. The neurophysiological results on BCV have led to a new clinical test of utricular function - the n10 of the oVEMP. The cVEMP tests saccular function while the oVEMP tests utricular function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Humans
  • Neurologic Examination / methods
  • Neurologic Examination / standards
  • Neurologic Examination / trends
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiology
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology
  • Saccule and Utricle / anatomy & histology
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiology
  • Sound
  • Vestibular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Vestibular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Vestibular Function Tests / methods*
  • Vestibular Function Tests / standards
  • Vestibular Function Tests / trends*
  • Vestibular Nerve / physiopathology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiopathology*
  • Vibration