Galvanic-induced postural movements as a test of vestibular function in humans

Laryngoscope. 1996 Apr;106(4):423-30. doi: 10.1097/00005537-199604000-00007.


Galvanic stimulation produces a postural sway and eye movements in humans. Since galvanic currents are thought to exert their effect at the trigger zone of the vestibular nerve, an intact vestibular nerve should be necessary to produce a response. We have used galvanic stimulation in humans to test the hypothesis that intact vestibular nerve fibers are required to obtain a postural away response. Experimental subjects included normal subjects, patients who had undergone resection of an acoustic neuroma, and patients who had undergone vestibular neurectomy and surgical labyrinthectomy. Our results support the hypothesis that an intact vestibular nerve is necessary to produce a response. Moreover, two patients with recurrent vertigo following vestibular neurectomy and labyrinthectomy, who had absent ice-water caloric test responses in the operated ears, were found to have a positive galvanic response. This result suggested that their recurrent vertigo was based on intact residual vestibular nerve fibers. Although previous research has not yielded a routine clinical use for galvanic stimulation, our results suggest that galvanic stimulation of the vestibular system can provide unique and valuable diagnostic information.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ear, Inner / physiology
  • Ear, Inner / surgery
  • Electric Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Head / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Recurrence
  • Vertigo / physiopathology
  • Vertigo / surgery
  • Vestibular Function Tests / instrumentation
  • Vestibular Function Tests / methods
  • Vestibular Nerve / physiology
  • Vestibular Nerve / surgery
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*