The direction of the postural response to a vestibular perturbation is mediated by the cerebellar vermis
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When an electrical stimulus is applied to perturb the vestibular system, a postural response is generated orthogonal to head orientation. It has previously been shown that there is a convergence of neck proprioceptive and vestibular input within the cerebellum to provide a head-on-body reference frame (Manzoni et al. in Neuroscience 93:1095-1107, 1999). The objective of this experiment was to determine whether the direction of the postural response to a vestibular perturbation is modulated when function of the cerebellar vermis is temporarily depressed. Twenty participants were randomly assigned to a SHAM group (paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation) or a TEST group (continuous theta burst stimulation). Stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS) was applied to standing subjects with their head facing forward or over their left shoulder. Cumulant density traces were established between the SVS and shear force over 180°, and the peak amplitude determined the direction of sway. There were no significant changes in sway direction when the head was facing forward for either stimulation (TEST or SHAM; p = 0.889) or when the head was facing over the shoulder for the SHAM condition (p = 0.954). There was, however, a significant change in sway direction when the head was turned with a depressed cerebellum (p = 0.018); from the expected antero-posterior direction, orthogonal to head orientation, to one slightly more mediolateral with respect to the feet. These results suggest the cerebellum plays a role in the integration of input to generate an appropriately directed postural response relative to the head position.
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