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Motion sickness is associated with an increase in vestibular modulation of skin but not muscle sympathetic nerve activity

Abstract

We have previously shown that sinusoidal galvanic vestibular stimulation (sGVS), delivered bilaterally at frequencies of 0.08–2.00 Hz, causes a pronounced modulation of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) and skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA), together with robust frequency-dependent illusions of side-to-side motion. At low frequencies of sGVS (≤0.2 Hz), some subjects report nausea, so we tested the hypothesis that vestibular modulation of MSNA and SSNA is augmented in individuals reporting nausea. MSNA was recorded via tungsten microelectrodes inserted into the left common peroneal nerve in 22 awake, seated subjects; SSNA was recorded in 14 subjects. Bipolar binaural sGVS (±2 mA, 100 cycles) was applied to the mastoid processes at 0.08, 0.13, and 0.18 Hz. Nausea was reported by 21 out of 36 subjects (58 %), but across frequencies of sGVS there was no difference in the magnitude of the vestibular modulation of MSNA in subjects who reported nausea (27.1 ± 1.8 %) and those who did not (30.4 ± 2.9 %). This contrasts with the significantly greater vestibular modulation of SSNA with nausea (41.1 ± 2.0 vs. 28.7 ± 3.1 %) and indicates an organ-specific modulation of sympathetic outflow via the vestibular system during motion sickness.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC Discovery Project 1096179).

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Correspondence to Vaughan G. Macefield.

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Klingberg, D., Hammam, E. & Macefield, V.G. Motion sickness is associated with an increase in vestibular modulation of skin but not muscle sympathetic nerve activity. Exp Brain Res 233, 2433–2440 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-015-4313-x

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Keywords

  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • Nausea
  • Skin sympathetic nerve activity
  • Vestibulosympathetic reflexes