BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Vestibular implants seem to be a promising treatment for patients suffering from severe bilateral vestibulopathy. To optimize outcomes, we need to investigate how, and to which extent, the different vestibular pathways are activated. Here we characterized the simultaneous responses to electrical stimuli of three different vestibular pathways.
METHODS: Three vestibular implant recipients were included. First, activation thresholds and amplitude growth functions of electrically evoked vestibulo-ocular reflexes (eVOR), cervical myogenic potentials (ecVEMPs) and vestibular percepts (vestibulo-thalamo-cortical, VTC) were recorded upon stimulation with single, biphasic current pulses (200 µs/phase) delivered through five different vestibular electrodes. Latencies of eVOR and ecVEMPs were also characterized. Then we compared the amplitude growth functions of the three pathways using different stimulation profiles (1-pulse, 200 µs/phase; 1-pulse, 50 µs/phase; 4-pulses, 50 µs/phase, 1600 pulses-per-second) in one patient (two electrodes).
RESULTS: The median latencies of the eVOR and ecVEMPs were 8 ms (8-9 ms) and 10.2 ms (9.6-11.8 ms), respectively. While the amplitude of eVOR and ecVEMP responses increased with increasing stimulation current, the VTC pathway showed a different, step-like behavior. In this study, the 200 µs/phase paradigm appeared to give the best balance to enhance responses at lower stimulation currents.
CONCLUSIONS: This study is a first attempt to evaluate the simultaneous activation of different vestibular pathways. However, this issue deserves further and more detailed investigation to determine the actual possibility of selective stimulation of a given pathway, as well as the functional impact of the contribution of each pathway to the overall rehabilitation process.
- Bilateral vestibulopathy
- Vestibular implant
- Vestibulo-ocular reflex
- Vestibulo-spinal reflex
- Electrical stimulation