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J Neurophysiol. 2010 Feb;103(2):1048-56. doi: 10.1152/jn.00881.2009. Epub 2009 Dec 23.

Frequency-specific modulation of vestibular-evoked sway responses in humans.

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  • 1School of Human Kinetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z1.


Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) results in characteristic muscle and whole-body responses in humans maintaining standing balance. However, the relationship between these two vestibular-evoked responses remains elusive. This study seeks to determine whether mechanical filtering from conversion of lower-limb muscle activity to body sway, during standing balance, can be used to attenuate sway while maintaining biphasic lower-limb muscle responses using frequency-limited stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS). We hypothesized that SVS deprived of frequencies <2 Hz would evoke biphasic muscle responses with minimal whole-body sway due to mechanical filtering of the higher-frequency muscle responses. Subjects were exposed to five stimulus bandwidths: two meant to induce sway responses (0-1 and 0-2 Hz) and three to dissociate vestibular-evoked muscle responses from whole-body sway (0-25, 1-25, and 2-25 Hz). Two main results emerged: 1) SVS-related sway was attenuated when frequencies <2 Hz were excluded, whereas multiphasic muscle and force responses were retained; and 2) the gain of the estimated transfer functions exhibited successive low-pass filtering of vestibular stimuli during conversion to muscle activity, anteroposterior (AP) moment, and sway. This successive low-pass filtering limited the transfer of signal power to frequencies <20 Hz in muscle activity, <5 Hz in AP moment, and <2 Hz in AP trunk sway. Consequently, the present results show that SVS delivered at frequencies >2 Hz to standing humans do not cause a destabilizing whole-body sway response but are associated with the typical biphasic lower-limb muscle responses.

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