Frequency tuning of the cervical vestibular-evoked myogenic potential (cVEMP) recorded from multiple sites along the sternocleidomastoid muscle in normal human subjects

Wei Wei, Ben Jeffcoat, William Mustain, Hong Zhu, Thomas Eby, Wu Zhou
Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology: JARO 2013, 14 (1): 37-47
Frequency tuning of tone burst-evoked myogenic potentials recorded from the sternocleidomastoid muscle (cervical VEMP or cVEMP) is used clinically to assess vestibular function. Understanding the characteristics of cVEMP is important for improving the specificity of cVEMP testing in diagnosing vestibular deficits. In the present study, we analyzed the frequency tuning properties of the cVEMPs by constructing detailed tuning curves and examining their morphology and dependence on SCM tonic level, sound intensity, and recording site along the SCM. Here we report two main findings. First, by employing nine tone frequencies between 125 and 4,000 Hz, some tuning curves exhibited two distinct peaks, which cannot be modeled by a single mass spring system as previously suggested. Instead, the observed tuning is better modeled as linear summation of two mass spring systems, with resonance frequencies at ~300 and ~1,000 Hz. Peak frequency of cVEMP tuning curves was not affected by SCM tonic level, sound intensity, and location of recording site on the SCM. However, sharpness of cVEMP tuning was increased at lower sound intensities. Second, polarity of cVEMP responses recorded from the lower quarter of the SCM was reversed as compared to that at the two upper sites. While more studies are needed, these results suggest that cVEMP tuning is mediated through multiple generators with different resonance frequencies. Future studies are needed to explore implications of these results on development of selective VEMP tests and determine the nature of polarity inversion at the lower quarter of SCM.

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