Left caloric vestibular stimulation ameliorates right hemianesthesia

G. Bottini, E. Paulesu, M. Gandola, S. Loffredo, P. Scarpa, R. Sterzi, I. Santilli, C. A. Defanti, G. Scialfa, F. Fazio, G. Vallar

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Background: Left caloric vestibular stimulation (CVS) transiently reduces impairments of right-brain-damaged patients with left unilateral neglect, including left hemianesthesia, contralateral to the side of the lesion (contralesional). Conversely, no effect on right contralesional hemianesthesia in left-brain-damaged patients is seen with right CVS. This discrepancy is unexplained. Methods: The authors explored the effect of CVS on right- and left-brain-damaged patients with hemianesthesia. One left-brain-damaged patient had an fMRI study during tactile stimulation before and after left CVS. The same fMRI touch study, without CVS, was performed in neurologically unimpaired subjects. Results: A transient remission of right hemianesthesia associated with left brain damage was observed, provided that cold CVS was administered to the left ear. In the left-brain-damaged patient studied with fMRI, left CVS modulated the neural response to right hand tactile stimuli of a portion of the secondary somatosensory area (SII) of the right hemisphere. In neurologically unimpaired subjects, fMRI scans showed that the same part of area SII in the right hemisphere was activated by ipsilateral right-sided touches and to a larger extent than area SII in the left hemisphere by left-sided touches. Conclusions: Left caloric vestibular stimulation is effective on both left and right hemianesthesia because it modulates the hemisphere that has a more complete representation of, or is capable to attend to, the whole somatosensory surface of the body. These results suggest a hardwired hemispheric asymmetry in hand representation, starting from a somatotopically organized brain region such as area SII.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1278-1283
Number of pages6
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 25 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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