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Cortical Effects of Noisy Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

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Noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation (nGVS) can improve different motor, sensory, and cognitive behaviors. However, it is unclear how this stimulation affects brain activity to facilitate these improvements. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is inexpensive, portable, and less prone to motion artifacts than other neuroimaging technology. Thus, fNIRS has the potential to provide insight into how nGVS affects cortical activity during a variety of natural behaviors. Here we sought to: (1) determine if fNIRS can detect cortical changes in oxygenated (HbO) and deoxygenated (HbR) hemoglobin with application of subthreshold nGVS, and (2) determine how subthreshold nGVS affects this fNIRS-derived hemodynamic response. A total of twelve healthy participants received nGVS and sham stimulation during a seated, resting-state paradigm. To determine whether nGVS altered activity in select cortical regions of interest (BA40, BA39), we compared differences between nGVS and sham HbO and HbR concentrations. We found a greater HbR response during nGVS compared to sham stimulation in left BA40, a region previously associated with vestibular processing, and with all left hemisphere channels combined (p < 0.05). We did not detect differences in HbO responses for any region during nGVS (p > 0.05). Our results suggest that fNIRS may be suitable for understanding the cortical effects of nGVS.
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