Modeling postural instability with Galvanic vestibular stimulation

Hamish G. MacDougall, Steven T. Moore, Ian S. Curthoys, F. Owen Black

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55 Scopus citations


In this study the effect of a pseudorandom binaural bipolar Galvanic stimulus generated by a sum of nonharmonically related sine waves on postural control was functionally assessed using computerized dynamic posturography (CDP), and the results compared to vestibulopathic patient populations and astronauts exposed to microgravity. The standardized CDP test battery comprised six sensory organization tests (SOTs) that combined three visual conditions (eyes open, eyes closed, and sway-referenced vision) with two proprioceptive conditions (fixed and sway-referenced support surfaces). Subjects (12) performed 18 randomized trials (three trials of each of the six SOTs) as a baseline, repeated the 18 trials with Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS), and then performed a post-GVS baseline. A 10 min rest period was inserted between each test battery. Anterioposterior postural sway increased significantly and was in the abnormal range (fifth percentile) during GVS for SOTs where visual input was compromised (sway-referenced surround) or absent. Postural stability returned to baseline when GVS was removed. An analysis of sensory input scores (somatosensory, visual, and vestibular) demonstrated the specificity of GVS in distorting vestibular input to postural control. The SOT scores observed in astronauts on landing day did not differ significantly to that generated by GVS in our normal subjects. GVS also induced a similar pattern of instability on CDP as profound bilateral vestibular loss, although not as severe. The results suggest that unpredictably varying GVS quantitatively and qualitatively models postural instability of vestibular origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-220
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Computerized dynamic posturography
  • Otolith
  • Semicircular canals
  • Space adaptation syndrome


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