Multi-sensory visuo-vestibular cortical areas within the parietal lobe are important for spatial orientation and possibly for descending modulation of the vestibular-ocular reflex (VOR). Functional imaging and lesion studies suggest that vestibular cortical processing is localized primarily in the non-dominant parietal lobe. However, the role of inter-hemispheric parietal balance in vestibular processing is poorly understood. Therefore, we tested whether experimentally induced asymmetries in right versus left parietal excitability would modulate vestibular function. VOR function was assessed in right-handed normal subjects during caloric ear irrigation (30 °C), before and after trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) was applied bilaterally over the parietal cortex. Bilateral tDCS with the anode over the right and the cathode over the left parietal region resulted in significant asymmetrical modulation of the VOR, with highly suppressed responses during the right caloric irrigation (i.e. rightward slow phase nystagmus). In contrast, we observed no VOR modulation during either cathodal stimulation of the right parietal cortex or SHAM tDCS conditions. Application of unilateral tDCS revealed that the left cathodal stimulation was critical in inducing the observed modulation of the VOR. We show that disruption of parietal inter-hemispheric balance can induce asymmetries in vestibular function. This is the first report using neuromodulation to show right hemisphere dominance for vestibular cortical processing.
Keywords: Parietal balance; Vestibular cortical processing; Vestibular-ocular reflex; tDCS.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.