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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The development of stochastic vestibular stimulation and its application to dynamic vestibular evoked responses Dakin, Christopher James


The vestibular system provides sensory information regarding linear and angular motion of the head for tasks such as spatial navigation and postural stabilization. In these dynamic environments examination of vestibular signals is experimentally difficult given current techniques. Recently, continuous stochastic stimuli have shown promise in addressing some limitations in current vestibular probes and might provide a useful tool for investigating the dynamic behaviour of the vestibular system. The purpose of this thesis is a) to develop further the stochastic stimulus format by examining the customizability of the stimulus bandwidth and the stimulus’ effectiveness in extracting dynamic responses, and b) to use these advancements to explore dynamic vestibular function during locomotion and head rotation. Exploration of the customizability of stimulus bandwidth revealed that a single broad bandwidth stimulus provides similar information to the sum of a series of sinusoidal stimuli or narrow bandwidth stimuli, but in much less time, and that stimulus bandwidth can be modified, by removing frequencies below 2 Hz, to attenuate the postural perturbation created by the stimulus. In a dynamic context the stochastic stimulus was also shown to be very effective in extracting the time varying modulation of vestibular-evoked responses during motion by identifying phase-dependent vestibular responses in the gastrocnemius during locomotion. The stochastic stimulus was then used to examine vestibular modulation and suppression during locomotion and vestibular spatial transformation during head turn. During locomotion, phase-dependent modulation of vestibular responses was observed in muscles of the leg and hip. In some muscles around the ankles these responses are attenuated with increasing cadence and walking speed. Lastly the transmission and spatial transformation of these vestibular-evoked responses are not hindered by motion and the spatial transformation occurs in nearly real time during head rotation. In general, the stochastic stimulus can be customized to reduce postural sway and is effective in extracting the dynamic modulation of vestibular influence on muscle activation. The identification of widespread phase-dependent vestibular coupling in the lower limbs and continuous spatial transformation of vestibular signals demonstrates that the stochastic waveform is an effective tool for the investigation of human vestibular physiology in dynamic contexts.

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