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Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials: past, present and future

S M Rosengren, M S Welgampola, J G Colebatch
Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 2010, 121 (5): 636-51
Since the first description of sound-evoked short-latency myogenic reflexes recorded from neck muscles, vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMPs) have become an important part of the neuro-otological test battery. VEMPs provide a means of assessing otolith function: stimulation of the vestibular system with air-conducted sound activates predominantly saccular afferents, while bone-conducted vibration activates a combination of saccular and utricular afferents. The conventional method for recording the VEMP involves measuring electromyographic (EMG) activity from surface electrodes placed over the tonically-activated sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles. The "cervical VEMP" (cVEMP) is thus a manifestation of the vestibulo-collic reflex. However, recent research has shown that VEMPs can also be recorded from the extraocular muscles using surface electrodes placed near the eyes. These "ocular VEMPs" (oVEMPs) are a manifestation of the vestibulo-ocular reflex. Here we describe the historical development and neurophysiological properties of the cVEMP and oVEMP and provide recommendations for recording both reflexes. While the cVEMP has documented diagnostic utility in many disorders affecting vestibular function, relatively little is known as yet about the clinical value of the oVEMP. We therefore outline the known cVEMP and oVEMP characteristics in common central and peripheral disorders encountered in neuro-otology clinics.

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