Vestibular stimulation by magnetic fields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals working next to strong static magnetic fields occasionally report disorientation and vertigo. With the increasing strength of magnetic fields used for magnetic resonance imaging studies, these reports have become more common. It was recently learned that humans, mice, and zebrafish all demonstrate behaviors consistent with constant peripheral vestibular stimulation while inside a strong, static magnetic field. The proposed mechanism for this effect involves a Lorentz force resulting from the interaction of a strong static magnetic field with naturally occurring ionic currents flowing through the inner ear endolymph into vestibular hair cells. The resulting force within the endolymph is strong enough to displace the lateral semicircular canal cupula, inducing vertigo and the horizontal nystagmus seen in normal mice and in humans. This review explores the evidence for interactions of magnetic fields with the vestibular system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Lorentz
  • Magnetic
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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