Ionic direct current modulation for combined inhibition/excitation of the vestibular system.

Research paper by Felix Peter FP Aplin, Dilawer D Singh, Charles C CC Della Santina, Gene Y GY Fridman

Indexed on: 17 Jul '18Published on: 17 Jul '18Published in: IEEE transactions on bio-medical engineering


Prosthetic electrical stimulation delivered to the vestibular nerve could provide therapy for people suffering from bilateral vestibular dysfunction (BVD). Common encoding methods use pulse-frequency modulation (PFM) to stimulate the semicircular canals of the vestibular system. We previously showed that delivery of ionic direct current (iDC) can also modulate the vestibular system. In this study we compare the dynamic range of head velocity encoding from iDC modulation to that of PFM controls. Gentamicin-treated wild-type chinchillas were implanted with microcatheter tubes that delivered ionic current to the left ear vestibular canals and stimulated with steps of anodic/cathodic iDC or PFM. Evoked vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) eye velocity was used to compare PFM and iDC vestibular modulation. Cathodic iDC steps effectively elicited eye rotations consistent with an increased firing rate of the implanted semicircular canal afferents. Anodic iDC current steps elicited eye rotations in the opposite direction that, when paired with an adapted cathodic offset, increased the dynamic range of eye rotation velocities in comparison to PFM controls. Our results suggest that iDC modulation can effectively modulate the vestibular system across a functional range of rotation vectors and velocities, with a potential benefit over a PFM stimulation paradigm. In conjunction with a safe DC delivery system, iDC modulation could potentially increase the range of simulated head rotation velocities available to neuroelectric vestibular prostheses.