The vertical vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) in response to pitch head impulses can be optimally trained to increase in one direction using a two-dimensional (2D) visual training target with minimal effect on the horizontal VOR.
We modified the incremental VOR adaptation (IVA) technique, shown to increase the horizontal VOR in patients with vestibular hypofunction, to drive vertical VOR adaptation in healthy control subjects.
We measured the horizontal and vertical active (self-generated) and passive (imposed) head impulse VOR gains (eye velocity/head velocity) before and after 15 minutes of unidirectional downward IVA training. IVA training consisted of two sessions, one using a single-dot one-dimensional (1D) target, the other a grid-of-dots 2D target.
The downward head impulse VOR gain significantly increased because of training by 13.3%, whereas the upward VOR gain did not change. The addition of extraretinal (2D) feedback did not result in greater adaptation, i.e., 1D and 2D gain increases were 15.5% and 10.6%, respectively. The vertical VOR gain increase resulted in a 3.2% decrease in horizontal VOR gain.
This preliminary study is the first to show that physiologically relevant (high frequency) unidirectional increases in vertical VOR gain are possible with just 15 minutes of training. This study sets the basis for future clinical trials examining vertical IVA training in patients, which may provide the first practical rehabilitation treatment to functionally improve the vertical VOR.