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The Effects of Habituation and Gaze Stability Exercises in the Treatment of Unilateral Vestibular Hypofunction: A Preliminary Results

Clendaniel, Richard A. PT, PhD

Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy: June 2010 - Volume 34 - Issue 2 - pp 111-116
doi: 10.1097/NPT.0b013e3181deca01

Background and Purpose: The efficacy of both habituation and adaptation exercise interventions in the treatment of unilateral vestibular hypofunction has been demonstrated by previous studies. The purpose of this article is to describe the preliminary results of an ongoing study that compares the effects of these 2 different exercise approaches on outcomes related to vestibular function.

Methods: Seven participants with unilateral vestibular hypofunction completed a 6-week exercise intervention after random assignment to either habituation exercises or gaze stability (GS) adaptation exercises. The following measures were performed pre- and posttreatment: Dizziness Handicap Inventory to measure the symptom impact, motion sensitivity quotient (MSQ) to assess sensitivity to head movements, and the dynamic visual acuity (DVA) test as a measure of GS during head movements.

Results: After the 6-week intervention, there was an overall improvement in the Dizziness Handicap Inventory, the MSQ score, and both the active and passive DVA. The habituation and GS intervention group participants each demonstrated similar improvements in both the MSQ score and the active and passive DVA measures.

Discussion and Conclusions: The improvement in the MSQ score for the GS group and the improvement in the DVA measures for the habituation group were unexpected findings. Head movement, which is required by both exercise interventions, rather than the specific type of exercise may be the critical factor underlying the observed improvements in motion sensitivity and DVA.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Division, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

Supported by NIH (NCMRR) grant R03HD049885.

Correspondence: Richard A. Clendaniel, E-mail:

© 2010 Neurology Section, APTA