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The differential effects of acute right- vs. left-sided vestibular failure on brain metabolism

Brain Struct Funct. 2013 May 18. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Becker-Bense S, Dieterich M, Buchholz HG, Bartenstein P, Schreckenberger M, Brandt T.
Publication Date: 2013



The human vestibular system is represented in the brain bilaterally, but it has functional asymmetries, i.e., a dominance of ipsilateral pathways and of the right hemisphere in right-handers. To determine if acute right- or left-sided unilateral vestibular neuritis (VN) is associated with differential patterns of brain metabolism in areas representing the vestibular network and the visual-vestibular interaction, patients with acute VN (right n = 9; left n = 13) underwent resting state 18F-FDG PET once in the acute phase and once 3 months later after central vestibular compensation. The contrast acute vs. chronic phase showed signal differences in contralateral vestibular areas and the inverse contrast in visual cortex areas, both more pronounced in VN right. In VN left additional regions were found in the cerebellar hemispheres and vermis bilaterally, accentuated in severe cases. In general, signal changes appeared more pronounced in patients with more severe vestibular deficits. Acute phase PET data of patients compared to that of age-matched healthy controls disclosed similarities to these patterns, thus permitting the interpretation that the signal changes in vestibular temporo-parietal areas reflect signal increases, and in visual areas, signal decreases. These data imply that brain activity in the acute phase of right- and left-sided VN exhibits different compensatory patterns, i.e., the dominant ascending input is shifted from the ipsilateral to the contralateral pathways, presumably due to the missing ipsilateral vestibular input. The visual-vestibular interaction patterns were preserved, but were of different prominence in each hemisphere and more pronounced in patients with right-sided failure and more severe vestibular deficits.

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