The effect of habituation and plane of rotation on vestibular perceptual responses

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Colleges, School and Institutes


A technique was applied to assess vestibular sensation without reference to external spatial, position cues. The stimuli were stopping responses to velocity-steps of 90 deg/s in the dark. Subjects indicated their perceived angular velocity by turning a flywheel connected to a tachogenerator. Two separate experiments were conducted. In one, subjects were rotated in yaw about an earth-vertical axis before and after prolonged rotational or visual (optokinetic) stimuli. In the second experiment, subjects were rotated in roll supine, with either the head ('roll centred') or the feet ('roll eccentric') on the axis of rotation. The two aims of the paper were to (i) examine the effect of repetitive vestibular and optokinetic stimulation on the time constant of decay of vestibular sensation in yaw; (ii) to compare vestibular sensation responses to rotation in roll both with and without the addition of a Z-axis centrifugal force. The pre-habituation sensation response in yaw decayed exponentially with a median time constant of 12.8 s. The duration of the sensation responses were significantly reduced following both prolonged vestibular and optokinetic stimulation. The reduction in vestibular responses following prolonged visual and vestibular stimuli, 1) is likely to occur in velocity storage mechanisms mediating ocular and perceptual responses, 2) may represent a mechanism for reducing the disorientating consequences of visual-vestibular conflict and 3) supports the use of optokinetic stimuli as a treatment for vestibular patients. The time constant of the sensation responses in roll was shorter and not significantly influenced by head position: 5.7 s in the head-centred position compared to 4.7 s in the eccentric head position. Therefore, perceptual as well as ocular responses to rotation in roll are determined primarily by cupula dynamics and not influenced by velocity storage.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-200
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of vestibular research : equilibrium & orientation
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2000