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Altered visual conscious awareness in patients with vestibular dysfunctions; a cross-sectional observation study
Patients with vestibular dysfunctions often experience visual-induced symptoms. Here we asked whether such visual dependence can be related to alterations in visual conscious awareness in these patients.
To measure visual conscious awareness, we used the effect of motion-induced blindness (MIB,) in which the perceptual awareness of the visual stimulus alternates despite its unchanged physical characteristics. In this phenomenon, a salient visual target spontaneously disappears and subsequently reappears from visual perception when presented against a moving visual background. The number of perceptual switches during the experience of the MIB stimulus was measured for 120 s in 15 healthy controls, 15 patients with vestibular migraine, 15 patients with benign positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV) and 15 with migraine without vestibular symptoms.
Patients with vestibular dysfunctions (i.e., both vestibular migraine and BPPV) exhibited increased perceptual fluctuations during MIB compared to healthy controls and migraine patients without vertigo. In VM patients, those with more severe symptoms exhibited higher fluctuations of visual awareness (i.e., positive correlation), whereas, in BPPV patients, those with more severe symptoms had lower fluctuations of visual awareness (i.e., negative correlation).
Taken together, these findings show that fluctuations of visual awareness are linked to the severity of visual-induced symptoms in patients with vestibular dysfunctions, and distinct pathophysiological mechanisms may mediate visual vertigo in peripheral versus central vestibular dysfunctions.
Author affiliationDepartment of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour, University of Leicester
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)