Subthreshold Stochastic Vestibular Stimulation Affects Balance-challenged Standing and Walking

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Subthreshold stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS) is thought to enhance vestibular sensitivity and improve balance. However, it is unclear how SVS affects standing and walking when balance is challenged, particularly when the eyes are open. It is also unclear how different methods to determine stimulation intensity influence the effects. We aimed to determine (1) whether SVS affects stability when balance is challenged during eyes-open standing and overground walking tasks, and (2) how the effects differ based on whether optimal stimulation amplitude is derived from sinusoidal or cutaneous threshold techniques. Thirteen healthy adults performed balance-unchallenged and balance-challenged standing and walking tasks with SVS (0–30 Hz zero-mean, white noise electrical stimulus) or sham stimulation. For the balance-challenged condition, participants had inflatable rubber hemispheres attached to the bottom of their shoes to reduce the control provided by moving the center of pressure under their base of support. In different blocks of trials, we set SVS intensity to either 50% of participants’ sinusoidal (motion) threshold or 80% of participants’ cutaneous threshold. SVS reduced medial-lateral trunk velocity root mean square in the balance-challenged (p < 0.05) but not in the balance-unchallenged condition during standing. Regardless of condition, SVS decreased step-width variability and marginally increased gait speed when walking with the eyes open (p < 0.05). SVS intensity had minimal effect on the standing and walking measures. Taken together, our results provide insight into the effectiveness of SVS at improving balance-challenged, eyes-open standing and walking performance in healthy adults.
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Piccolo C, Bakkum A, Marigold DS (2020) Subthreshold stochastic vestibular stimulation affects balance-challenged standing and walking. PLoS ONE 15(4): e0231334. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0231334.
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Subthreshold Stochastic Vestibular Stimulation Affects Balance-challenged Standing and Walking
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