Exploring persistent complaints of imbalance after mTBI: Oculomotor, peripheral vestibular and central sensory integration function

J Vestib Res. 2021;31(6):519-530. doi: 10.3233/VES-201590.


Background: Little is known on the peripheral and central sensory contributions to persistent dizziness and imbalance following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Objective: To identify peripheral vestibular, central integrative, and oculomotor causes for chronic symptoms following mTBI.

Methods: Individuals with chronic mTBI symptoms and healthy controls (HC) completed a battery of oculomotor, peripheral vestibular and instrumented posturography evaluations and rated subjective symptoms on validated questionnaires. We defined abnormal oculomotor, peripheral vestibular, and central sensory integration for balance measures among mTBI participants as falling outside a 10-percentile cutoff determined from HC data. A X-squared test associated the proportion of normal and abnormal responses in each group. Partial Spearman's rank correlations evaluated the relationships between chronic symptoms and measures of oculomotor, peripheral vestibular, and central function for balance control.

Results: The mTBI group (n = 58) had more abnormal measures of central sensory integration for balance than the HC (n = 61) group (mTBI: 41% -61%; HC: 10%, p's < 0.001), but no differences on oculomotor and peripheral vestibular function (p > 0.113). Symptom severities were negatively correlated with central sensory integration for balance scores (p's < 0.048).

Conclusions: Ongoing balance complaints in people with chronic mTBI are explained more by central sensory integration dysfunction rather than peripheral vestibular or oculomotor dysfunction.

Keywords: Peripheral vestibular function; central sensory integration; mild traumatic brain injury; oculomotor function; postural control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Concussion*
  • Dizziness / etiology
  • Humans
  • Postural Balance
  • Vertigo
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth*