The influence of vestibular stimulation on metabolism and body composition

Diabet Med. 2020 Jan;37(1):20-28. doi: 10.1111/dme.14166. Epub 2019 Nov 8.


Obesity, diabetes and metabolic disease represent an ongoing and rapidly worsening public health issue in both the developed, and much of the developing world. Although there are many factors that influence fat storage, it has been clearly demonstrated that the homeostatic cornerstone of metabolism lies within the hypothalamus. Moreover, neuronal damage to vital areas of the hypothalamus can drive reregulation or dysregulation of endocrine function, energy expenditure and appetite, thereby promoting a shift in overall metabolic function towards a state of obesity. Therefore, identification of treatments that influence the hypothalamus to improve obesity and associated metabolic diseases has long been a medical goal. Interestingly, evidence from animal studies suggests that activating the vestibular system, specifically the macular gravity receptor, influences the hypothalamus in a way that decreases body fat storage and causes a metabolic shift towards a leaner state. Given that the macular element of the vestibular system has been shown to activate with transdermal electrical stimulation applied to the mastoids, this may be a potential therapeutic approach for obesity, diabetes or related metabolic diseases, whereby repetitive stimulation of the vestibular system influences hypothalamic control of metabolic homeostasis, thereby encouraging decreased fat storage. Here, we present an up-to-date review of the current literature surrounding the vestibular influence of the hypothalamus and associated homeostatic sites in the context of current and novel therapeutic approaches for improved clinical management of obesity and diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Metabolic Diseases
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*