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Researchers find possible causes of functional dizziness

ANI | Updated: Aug 03, 2019 19:27 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], August 3 (ANI): Researchers have identified possible causes of the functional dizziness. They found that the problem lies with the processing of sensory-motor signals in the brain.
The researchers had suggested several years ago that functional disorders may be caused by faulty processing of sensory stimuli. The team, headed by Prof. Nadine Lehnen, senior physician for psychosomatic medicine, was able to bolster this hypothesis with the results of an experimental pilot study.
The findings were published by the Journal Progress in Brain Research.

Eight patients with functional dizziness and eleven healthy subjects who served as a comparison group participated in the study. The researchers also used data from dizziness patients with organic defects who had previously taken part in the same experiment. Those patients had either a cerebellar disorder or a complete loss of functioning vestibular (equilibrium) nerves.
During the experiment, the participants sat in a dark room in which points of light were flashed in rapid succession on the wall left and right of gaze straight ahead. They were asked to look in the direction of the light points. Their eye and head movements during the gaze shifts were recorded. They were then fitted with a weighted helmet to alter the inertia of their head. This resulted in significant head wobbling. The experiment was performed with and without the helmet.
Whereas the healthy subjects quickly adapted their movements to the new circumstances and managed to stop their head from wobbling, all the subjects with functional dizziness found the task difficult to perform. What surprised the research team was the fact that the latter behaved in exactly the same way as subjects with dizziness due to massive organic defects.
"Our results clearly show that functional dizziness is manifested exactly like severe physical disorders, for example after a complete functional loss of the vestibular nerves. This reflects how severely impaired these people are," said Nadine Lehnen.

Based on previous experience, which is stored in the brain in the form of learned models, people have a certain expectation about the sensory impressions evoked by a movement. This expectation is compared with information from the vestibular organs. If the head behaves differently than normal, the two sets of information no longer match. This creates an imbalance between expectation and reality, a state known as a prediction error.
Nadine Lehnen explained, "Healthy people can easily perceive this error, process it and adapt their movements accordingly. Patients with functional dizziness, by contrast, do not appear to process sensory-motor impressions correctly. They rely primarily on their stored model, but it no longer matches the new reality.
She further added, "We were excited to observe that they are still able to learn - albeit only to a limited degree." (ANI)