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Effects of Near-Threshold Stimulation of the Vestibular Apparatus on Postural Responses Evoked by Displacements of the Visualized Surrounding

In healthy subjects in the relaxed upward stance and perceiving a virtual visual environment (VVE), we recorded postural reactions to isolated visual and vestibular stimulations or their combinations. Lateral displacements of the visualized virtual scene were used as visual stimuli. The vestibular apparatus was stimulated by application of near-threshold galvanic current pulses to the proc. mastoidei of the temporal bones. Isolated VVE shifts evoked mild, nonetheless clear, body tilts readily distinguished in separate trials; at the same time, postural effects of isolated vestibular stimulation could be detected only after averaging of several trials synchronized with respect to the beginning of stimulation. Under conditions of simultaneous combined presentation of visual and vestibular stimuli, the direction of the resulting postural responses always corresponded to the direction of responses induced by VVE shifts. The contribution of an afferent volley from the vestibular organ depended on the coincidence/mismatch of the direction of motor response evoked by such a volley with the direction of response to visual stimulation. When both types of stimulations evoked unidirectional body tilts, postural responses were facilitated, and the resulting effect was greater than that of simple summation of the reactions to isolated actions of the above stimuli. In the case where isolated galvanic stimulation evoked a response opposite with respect to that induced by visual stimulation, the combined action of these stimuli of different modalities evoked postural responses identical in their magnitude, direction, and shape to those evoked by isolated visual stimulation. The above findings allow us to conclude that the effects of visual afferent input on the vertical posture under conditions of our experiments clearly dominate. In general, these results confirm the statement that neuronal structures involved in integrative processing of different afferent volleys preferably select certain type of afferentation carrying more significant or more detailed information on displacements (including oscillations) of the body in space.

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Correspondence to B. N. Smetanin.

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Neirofiziologiya/Neurophysiology, Vol. 43, No. 5, pp. 435–442, September–October, 2011.

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Smetanin, B.N., Kozhina, G.V. & Popov, A.K. Effects of Near-Threshold Stimulation of the Vestibular Apparatus on Postural Responses Evoked by Displacements of the Visualized Surrounding. Neurophysiology 43, 377–383 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11062-012-9237-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11062-012-9237-5

Keywords

  • visual and vestibular control
  • vertical posture
  • virtual visual environment
  • galvanic stimulation of the labyrinths
  • stabilography
  • domination of afferent inputs