Indexed on: 29 Jan '13Published on: 29 Jan '13Published in: Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
An implantable prosthesis that stimulates vestibular nerve branches to restore the sensation of head rotation and the three-dimensional (3D) vestibular ocular reflex (VOR) could benefit individuals disabled by bilateral loss of vestibular sensation. Our group has developed a vestibular prosthesis that partly restores normal function in animals by delivering biphasic current pulses via electrodes implanted in semicircular canals. Despite otherwise promising results, this approach has been limited by insufficient velocity of VOR response to head movements that should inhibit the implanted labyrinth and by misalignment between direction of head motion and prosthetically elicited VOR. We report that significantly larger VOR eye velocities in the inhibitory direction can be elicited by adapting a monkey to elevated baseline stimulation rate and current prior to stimulus modulation and then concurrently modulating ("co-modulating") both rate and current below baseline levels to encode inhibitory angular head velocity. Co-modulation of pulse rate and current amplitude above baseline can also elicit larger VOR eye responses in the excitatory direction than do either pulse rate modulation or current modulation alone. Combining these stimulation strategies with a precompensatory 3D coordinate transformation improves alignment and magnitude of evoked VOR eye responses. By demonstrating that a combination of co-modulation and precompensatory transformation strategies achieves a robust VOR response in all directions with significantly improved alignment in an animal model that closely resembles humans with vestibular loss, these findings provide a solid preclinical foundation for application of vestibular stimulation in humans.