The Effect of Cognitive Tasks on the Ocular Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials in Healthy People

Document Type : Original


Department of Audiology, School of Rehabilitation, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


The majority of the daily life activities involve the concurrent performance of simultaneously challenging motor and cognitive activities, such as talking while walking, which requires the vestibular system for balance. Functional balance allows the brain to interpret and integrate the sensory information from our physical and social environment. This study aimed to investigate the effect of cognitive activities on the vestibular system function.
Materials and Methods:
This study investigated the otolith system as a sensory organ that is responsible for linear acceleration by recording ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potential (oVEMP) in 28 healthy participants (11 males and 17 females) with the age range of 18-26 years under a cognitive condition. The rest and intervention states were compared in terms of oVEMP n1-p1 amplitude, n1-p1 latencies, and gender.
The results showed that the oVEMP n1-p1 amplitude in both ears significantly decreased, and the asymmetry increased after cognitive tasks, compared to the rest state in females (P≤0.02). Moreover, there was no significant difference between the rest state and numeric subtraction task in terms of oVEMP n1-p1 latencies in males and females (P>0.05).
These results suggest that an augmented cognitive load causes an alteration in the oVEMPs; therefore, it is suggested that the structures associated with the cognitive processing are connected with the vestibular system in the brain. These findings demonstrate the importance of non-vestibular factors in balance, especially in females.


  1. Colebatch J, Halmagyi G. Vestibular evoked potentials in human neck muscles before and after unilateral vestibular deafferentation. Neurology. 1992; 42(8):1635.
  2. Govender S, Rosengren SM, Colebatch JG. The effect of gaze direction on the ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potential produced by air-conducted sound. Clinical neurophysiology. 2009;120(7):1386-91.
  3. Cullen KE. The vestibular system: multimodal integration and encoding of self-motion for motor control.Trends in neurosciences.2012;35(3):185-96.
  4. Brandt T, Dieterich M. The dizzy patient: don't forget disorders of the central vestibular system. Nature Reviews Neurology. 2017;13(6):352.
  5. Angelaki DE, Klier EM, Snyder LH. A vestibular sensation: probabilistic approaches to spatial perception. Neuron. 2009;64(4):448-61.
  6. Ferre ER, Longo M, Fiori F, Haggard P. Vestibular modulation of spatial perception. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 2013;7:660.
  7. Lopez C, Lenggenhager B, Blanke O. How vestibular stimulation interacts with illusory hand ownership. Consciousness and cognition. 2010; 19(1): 33-47.
  8. Lenggenhager B, Lopez C, Blanke O. Influence of galvanic vestibular stimulation on egocentric and object-based mental transformations. Experimental Brain Research. 2008;184(2):211-21.
  9. Falconer CJ, Mast FW. Balancing the mind: vestibular induced facilitation of egocentric mental transformations. Experimental psychology. 2012; 59(6):332.
  10. Van Elk M, Blanke O. Imagined own-body transformations during passive self-motion. Psychological research. 2014;78(1):18-27.
  11. Figliozzi F, Guariglia P, Silvetti M, Siegler I, Doricchi F. Effects of vestibular rotatory accelerations on covert attentional orienting in vision and touch. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2005; 17(10):1638-51.
  12. Smith P, Geddes L, Baek J-H, Darlington C, Zheng Y. Modulation of memory by vestibular lesions and galvanic vestibular stimulation. Frontiers in neurology. 2010;1:141.
  13. McKay R, Tamagni C, Palla A, Krummenacher P, Hegemann SC, Straumann D, et al. Vestibular stimulation attenuates unrealistic optimism. Cortex. 2013;49(8):2272-5.
  14. Lopez C, Falconer CJ, Mast FW. Being moved by the self and others: influence of empathy on self-motion perception. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e48293.
  15. Palla A, Lenggenhager B. Ways to investigate vestibular contributions to cognitive processes. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience. 2014;8:40.
  16. Smith P, Zheng Y. From ear to uncertainty: vestibular contributions to cognitive function. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience. 2013;7:84.
  17. Been G, Ngo TT, Miller SM, Fitzgerald PB. The use of tDCS and CVS as methods of non-invasive brain stimulation. Brain research reviews. 2007; 56(2):346-61.
  18. Utz KS, Dimova V, Oppenländer K, Kerkhoff G. Electrified minds: transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) as methods of non-invasive brain stimulation in neuropsychology-a review of current data and future implications. Neuropsychologia. 2010; 48(10):2789-810.
  19. Rosengren S, Welgampola M, Colebatch J. Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials: past, present and future. Clinical neurophysiology. 2010; 121(5):636-51.
  20. Coelho DB, Bourlinova C, Teixeira LA. Higher order balance control: distinct effects between cognitive task and manual steadiness constraint on automatic postural responses. Human movement science. 2016;50:62-72.
  21. Murofushi T, Komiyama S, Yoshimura E. Do patients who experience episodic tilting or translational sensations in the pitch plane have abnormal sacculo-collic reflexes? Neuroscience letters. 2013;553:95-8.
  22. Talkowski M, Redfern MS, Jennings J, Furman JM. Cognitive requirements for vestibular and ocular motor processing in healthy adults and patients with unilateral vestibular lesions. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. 2005;17(9):1432-41.
  23. Serrador JM, Lipsitz LA, Gopalakrishnan GS, Black FO, Wood SJ. Loss of otolith function with age is associated with increased postural sway measures. Neuroscience letters. 2009;465(1):10-5.
  24. Muir-Hunter S, Wittwer J. Dual-task testing to predict falls in community-dwelling older adults: a systematic review. Physiotherapy. 2016; 102(1):
  25. Hall CD, Echt KV, Wolf SL, Rogers WA. Cognitive and motor mechanisms underlying older adults' ability to divide attention while walking. Physical therapy. 2011;91(7):1039-50.
  26. Naranjo E, Allum J, Inglis J, Carpenter M. Increased gain of vestibulospinal potentials evoked in neck and leg muscles when standing under height-induced postural threat. Neuroscience. 2015; 293:
  27. Holste KG, Yasen AL, Hill MJ, Christie AD. Motor cortex inhibition is increased during a secondary cognitive task. Motor control. 2016; 20(4):380-94.
  28. Pashler H. Dual-task interference in simple tasks: data and theory. Psychological bulletin. 1994; 116(2): 220.
  29.                 Sigman M, Dehaene S. Brain mechanisms of serial and parallel processing during dual-task performance. Journal of Neuroscience. 2008; 28(30): 7585-98.
  30.                 McGeehan MA, Woollacott MH, Dalton BH. Vestibular control of standing balance is enhanced with increased cognitive load. Experimental brain research. 2017;235(4):1031-40.
  31.                 Torres AGómez-Gil EVidal APuig OBoget T,  Salamero M. Gender differences in cognitive functions and influence of sex hormones. Actas Esp Psiquiatr. 2006;34(6):408-15.
  32. Todd NPRosengren SMAw STColebatch JG. Ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (OVEMPs) produced by air- and bone-conductedsound. Clin Neurophysiol. 2007 Feb; 118(2): 381-90.