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Psychometrics of inertial heading perception.

BACKGROUND: Inertial self-motion perception is thought to depend primarily on otolith cues. Recent evidence demonstrated that vestibular perceptual thresholds (including inertial heading) are adaptable, suggesting novel clinical approaches for treating perceptual impairments resulting from vestibular disease.

OBJECTIVE: Little is known about the psychometric properties of perceptual estimates of inertial heading like test-retest reliability. Here we investigate the psychometric properties of a passive inertial heading perceptual test.

METHODS: Forty-seven healthy subjects participated across two visits, performing in an inertial heading discrimination task. The point of subjective equality (PSE) and thresholds for heading discrimination were identified for the same day and across day tests. Paired t-tests determined if the PSE or thresholds significantly changed and a mixed interclass correlation coefficient (ICC) model examined test-retest reliability. Minimum detectable change (MDC) was calculated for PSE and threshold for heading discrimination.

RESULTS: Within a testing session, the heading discrimination PSE score test-retest reliability was good (ICC = 0. 80) and did not change (t(1,36) = -1.23, p = 0.23). Heading discrimination thresholds were moderately reliable (ICC = 0.67) and also stable (t(1,36) = 0.10, p = 0.92). Across testing sessions, heading direction PSE scores were moderately correlated (ICC = 0.59) and stable (t(1,46) = -0.44, p = 0.66). Heading direction thresholds had poor reliability (ICC = 0.03) and were significantly smaller at the second visit (t(1,46) = 2.8, p = 0.008). MDC for heading direction PSE ranged from 6-9 degrees across tests.

CONCLUSION: The current results indicate moderate reliability for heading perception PSE and provide clinical context for interpreting change in inertial vestibular self-motion perception over time or after an intervention.

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