Objective: Recent studies suggest an association between vestibular and cognitive function. The goal of the study was to investigate whether vestibular function was impaired in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) compared with cognitively normal individuals.
Study design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Outpatient memory clinic and longitudinal observational study unit.
Patients: Older individuals ≥55 years with MCI or AD. Age, sex, and education-matched normal controls were drawn from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA).
Intervention: Saccular and utricular function was assessed with cervical and ocular vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials (c- and oVEMPs) respectively, and horizontal semicircular canal function was assessed with video head impulse testing.
Main outcome measures: Presence or absence of VEMP responses, VEMP amplitude, and vestibular ocular reflex (VOR) gain were measured.
Results: Forty-seven individuals with cognitive impairment (MCI N = 15 and AD N = 32) underwent testing and were matched with 94 controls. In adjusted analyses, bilaterally absent cVEMPs were associated with an over three-fold odds of AD (OR 3.42, 95% CI 1.33-8.91, p = 0.011). One microvolt increases in both cVEMP and oVEMP amplitudes were associated with decreased odds of AD (OR 0.28, 95% CI 0.09-0.93, p = 0.038 and OR 0.92, 95% CI 0.85-0.99, p = 0.036, respectively). There was no significant difference in VOR gain between the groups.
Conclusions: These findings confirm and extend emerging evidence of an association between vestibular dysfunction and cognitive impairment. Further investigation is needed to determine the causal direction for the link between peripheral vestibular loss and cognitive impairment.