By sensing three-dimensional (3D) head rotation and electrically stimulating the three ampullary branches of a vestibular nerve to encode head angular velocity, a multichannel vestibular prosthesis (MVP) can restore vestibular sensation to individuals disabled by loss of vestibular hair cell function. However, current spread to afferent fibers innervating non-targeted canals and otolith end organs can distort the vestibular nerve activation pattern, causing misalignment between the perceived and actual axis of head rotation. We hypothesized that over time, central neural mechanisms can adapt to correct this misalignment. To test this, we rendered five chinchillas vestibular deficient via bilateral gentamicin treatment and unilaterally implanted them with a head-mounted MVP. Comparison of 3D angular vestibulo-ocular reflex (aVOR) responses during 2 Hz, 50°/s peak horizontal sinusoidal head rotations in darkness on the first, third, and seventh days of continual MVP use revealed that eye responses about the intended axis remained stable (at about 70% of the normal gain) while misalignment improved significantly by the end of 1 week of prosthetic stimulation. A comparable time course of improvement was also observed for head rotations about the other two semicircular canal axes and at every stimulus frequency examined (0.2-5 Hz). In addition, the extent of disconjugacy between the two eyes progressively improved during the same time window. These results indicate that the central nervous system rapidly adapts to multichannel prosthetic vestibular stimulation to markedly improve 3D aVOR alignment within the first week after activation. Similar adaptive improvements are likely to occur in other species, including humans.
- Bilateral vestibular deficiency
- Electrical stimulation
- Vestibular implant
- Vestibular nerve
- Vestibular prosthesis
- Vestibulo-ocular reflex, VOR, labyrinth
ASJC Scopus subject areas