Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 229, Issue 2, pp 181–195 | Cite as

Postural responses to electrical stimulation of the vestibular end organs in human subjects

  • Christopher PhillipsEmail author
  • Christina DeFrancisci
  • Leo Ling
  • Kaibao Nie
  • Amy Nowack
  • James O. Phillips
  • Jay T. Rubinstein
Research Article


A multichannel vestibular prosthesis that delivers electrical stimulation to the perilymph of individual semicircular canals is a potential new treatment modality for patients with vestibular deficiencies. Most research in this field has evaluated the efficacy of this approach by its ability to reproduce eye movements in response to head rotations. Our group has developed such a device and implanted it in four human subjects with intractable unilateral Meniere’s disease. This allows us to evaluate individual semicircular canal contribution to the control of balance and posture in human subjects. In this report, we demonstrate that electrical stimulation trains delivered to the perilymph of individual semicircular canals elicit postural responses specific to the particular canal stimulated, with some current spread to adjacent end organs. Modulation of stimulation current modulates the amplitude of the postural response. However, eye movements elicited by the same electrical stimuli were not consistent with postural responses in magnitude or direction in all subjects. Taken together, these findings support the feasibility of a vestibular prosthesis for the control of balance and illustrate new challenges for the development of this technology.


Vestibular Human Prosthesis Meniere’s Posture 



The development of the prosthesis was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders contract N01-DC-6-005 and the National Center for Research Resources ITHS ignition award RR00166. This study was supported by the Coulter Foundation, Cochlear, Ltd., and a gift from Sara Kranwinkle. JR is a paid consultant for Cochlear, Ltd., which manufactured and provided the UW/Nucleus vestibular implant. LL, KN, JP, JR, and the University of Washington hold intellectual property rights to the device being studied.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Phillips
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Christina DeFrancisci
    • 3
    • 5
  • Leo Ling
    • 1
    • 4
  • Kaibao Nie
    • 1
    • 5
  • Amy Nowack
    • 1
    • 4
  • James O. Phillips
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Jay T. Rubinstein
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.BioengineeringUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Speech and Hearing SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Washington National Primate Research CenterUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  5. 5.Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research CenterUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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