Vestibular stimulation improves insight into illness in schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Psychiatry Res. 2017 May:251:333-341. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.02.020. Epub 2017 Feb 13.


Impaired insight into illness (IMP-INS) is common among individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD), contributing to medication nonadherence and poor clinical outcomes. Caloric vestibular simulation (CVS) is typically used to assess peripheral vestibular system function. Left cold CVS is also a transiently effective treatment for IMP-INS and hemineglect secondary to right brain hemisphere stroke, and possibly for IMP-INS and mood stabilization in patients with SSD. Participants with SSD and moderate-to-severe IMP-INS participated in an exploratory double blind, crossover, randomized controlled study of the effects of CVS on IMP-INS. Participants sequentially received all experimental conditions-left cold (4°C), right cold, and body temperature/sham CVS-in a random order. Repeated measures ANOVA were performed to compare changes in IMP-INS, mood and positive symptom severity pre and 30min post CVS. A significant interaction was found between CVS condition, time, and body temperature nystagmus peak slow phase velocity (PSPV) for IMP-INS, indicating that single session left cold CVS transiently improved IMP-INS while right cold CVS may have worsened IMP-INS, particularly in participants with greater vestibular reactivity (i.e. higher PSPV) to body temperature CVS. The procedure's effectiveness is attributed to stimulation of underactive right hemisphere circuits via vestibular nuclei projections to the contralateral hemisphere.

Keywords: Anosognosia; Illness denial; Insight into illness; Schizophrenia; Vestibular stimulation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agnosia / physiopathology*
  • Agnosia / psychology
  • Agnosia / therapy*
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Caloric Tests*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / therapy*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Sick Role*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiopathology*