Clinical Trial
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Quantifying virtual self-motion sensations induced by galvanic vestibular stimulation.

BACKGROUND: The vestibular system provides a comprehensive estimate of self-motion in 3D space. Widely used to artificially stimulate the vestibular system, binaural-bipolar square-wave Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) elicits a virtual sensation of roll rotation. Postural responses to GVS have been clearly delineated, however quantifying the perceived virtual rotation vector has not been fully realised.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to quantify the perceived virtual roll rotation vector elicited by GVS using a psychophysical approach on a 3D turntable.

METHODS: Participants were placed supine on the 3D turntable and rotated around the naso-occipital axis while supine and received square-wave binaural-bipolar GVS or sham stimulation. GVS amplitudes and intensities were systematically manipulated. The turntable motion profile consisted of a velocity step of 20°/s2 until the trial velocity between 0-20°/s was reached, followed by a 1°/s ramp until the end of the trial. In a psychophysical adaptive staircase procedure, we systematically varied the roll velocity to identify the exact velocity that cancelled the perceived roll sensation induced by GVS.

RESULTS: Participants perceived a virtual roll rotation towards the cathode of approximately 2°/s velocity for 1 mA GVS and 6°/s velocity for 2.5 mA GVS. The observed values were stable across repetitions.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results quantify for the first time the perceived virtual roll rotations induced by binaural-bipolar square-wave GVS. Importantly, estimates were based on perceptual judgements, in the absence of motor or postural responses and in a head orientation where the GVS-induced roll sensation did not interact with the perceived direction of gravity. This is an important step towards applications of GVS in different settings, including sensory substitution or Virtual Reality.

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