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Deficits and recovery of head and trunk orientation and stabilization after unilateral vestibular loss.

  • Borel, L
  • Harlay, F
  • Magnan, J
  • Chays, A
  • Lacour, M
Published Article
Brain : a journal of neurology
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2002
Pt 4
PMID: 11912120


The aim of the study was to analyse changes in the orientation and stabilization of the head and trunk and their recovery after complete unilateral loss of vestibular information in humans. The ability of nine Ménière's patients to orient and stabilize their heads and trunks in space was investigated during a simple dynamic task of knee-bends and compared with the performance of 10 healthy subjects. Patients' performance was recorded before unilateral vestibular neurotomy (UVN) and during the time-course of recovery (1 week, 1 month, 3 months). Experiments were performed both in eyes open (EO) and eyes closed (EC) conditions to evaluate the role of visual cues in the recovery process. Head and trunk mean angular position (orientation) and mean maximal angular rotation (stabilization) in the roll plane and the yaw plane were recorded using a video motion analysis system. The results indicate that, in the acute stage after UVN (1 week), patients exhibit marked impairments in head and trunk orientation in both visual conditions. In the EC condition, head and trunk were deviated towards the operated side in the roll plane and the yaw plane. Head and trunk stabilization in space was impaired in the roll plane and associated with increased stabilization of the head on the shoulders. Interestingly, vision caused a complete inversion of the orientation pattern, with head and trunk rotations towards the intact side in the roll plane and the yaw plane. Relative to darkness, vision also reduced head and trunk oscillations. Recovery from abnormal head orientation in the light and impaired head stability in both visual conditions was achieved within 1 month and 3 months after UVN, respectively. However, head and trunk orientation in the dark and trunk stabilization in the roll plane remained uncompensated 3 months post-lesion. These results suggest that unilateral vestibular loss leads to a postural syndrome similar to that described previously for various animal species. They confirm the necessity of vestibular inputs for properly stabilizing head and trunk during self-generated displacements in healthy subjects. They also support the notion that vestibular compensation relies on visual cues whose substitution role gradually decreases after UVN.

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