Vestibular disorders are difficult to diagnose early due to the lack of a systematic assessment. Our previous work has developed a reliable experimental design and the result shows promising results that vestibular sensory input while walking could be affected through mastoid vibration (MV) and changes are in the direction of motion. In the present paper, we wanted to extend this work to older adults and investigate how manipulating sensory input through mastoid vibration (MV) could affect dynamic postural control during walking. Three levels of MV (none, unilateral, and bilateral) applied via vibrating elements placed on the mastoid processes were combined with the Locomotor Sensory Organization Test (LSOT) paradigm to challenge the visual and somatosensory systems. We hypothesized that the MV would affect sway variability during walking in older adults. Our results revealed that MV significantly not only increased the amount of sway variability but also decreased the temporal structure of sway variability only in anterior-posterior direction. Importantly, the bilateral MV stimulation generally produced larger effects than the unilateral. This is an important finding that confirmed our experimental design and the results produced could guide a more reliable screening of vestibular system deterioration.
Chien, J. H. et al. Mastoid vibration affects dynamic postural control during gait in healthy older adults. Sci. Rep. 7, 41547; doi: 10.1038/srep41547 (2017).