Research Article

Visuo-spatial memory enhancement by galvanic vestibular stimulation: A preliminary report


Background and Aim: Navigation information is processed and stored in different brain areas such as hippocampus. Since multiple pathways has been reported between vestibular nuclei and hippocampus and also cognitive dysfunction specifically in spatial memory is induced by vestibular deficits, it can be assumed that vestibular system stimulation ameliorates spatial memory. The aim of study was to evaluate the effect of galvanic vestibular stimulation on normal individual’s spatial memory.
Methods: In this experimental-interventional study, sixty 18-30-years-old women were randomly allocated in intervention and control groups. Intervention group undergone subthreshold bilateral bipolar galvanic vestibular stimulation and control group received sham stimulation. Stimulation was presented for 15 minutes. Corsi Block Tapping (CBT) test scores were compared before and after subthreshold bipolar galvanic vestibular stimulation exposure or no stimulation in each group and between groups.
Results: All test parameters were the same in both groups before stimulation (p<0.050). There were significant improvement in block span, total score and learning score in intervention group after galvanic vestibular stimulation (p<0.050), no significant difference in delayed score (p=0.600). Learning score was improved (p=0.003) and delayed score was deteriorated (p=0.010) in control group. Percentages of block span and total score in intervention group were significantly different compared to the other group (p<0.050).
Conclusion: Galvanic vestibular stimulation improves short-term and long-term spatial memory. This test may inherently have learning effect that is not influenced by stimulation.

1. Smith PF, Brandt T, Strupp M, Darlington CL, Zheng Y. Balance before reason in rats and humans. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009;1164(1):127-33.
2. Dieterich M, Brandt T. Functional brain imaging of peripheral and central vestibular disorders. Brain. 2008;131(10):2538-52.
3. Smith PF, Darlington CL, Zheng Y. Move it or lose it--is stimulation of the vestibular system necessary for normal spatial memory? Hippocampus. 2010;20(1):36-43.
4. Hanes DA, McCollum G. Cognitive-vestibular interactions: a review of patient difficulties and possible mechanisms. J Vestib Res. 2006;16(3):75-91.
5. Brandt T, Schautzer F, Hamilton DA, Bruning R, Markowitsch HJ, Kalla R, et al. Vestibular loss causes hippocampal atrophy and impaired spatial memory in humans. Brain. 2005;128(11):2732-41.
6. Smith PF, Geddes LH, Baek JH, Darlington CL, Zheng Y. Modulation of memory by vestibular lesions and galvanic vestibular stimulation. Front Neurol. 2010;1:141.
7. Suzuki M, Kitano H, Ito R, Kitanishi T, Yazawa Y, Ogawa T, et al. Cortical and subcortical vestibular response to caloric stimulation detected by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2001;12(3):441-9.
8. Bachtold D, Baumann T, Sandor PS, Kritos M, Regard M, Brugger P. Spatial- and verbal-memory improvement by cold-water caloric stimulation in healthy subjects. Exp Brain Res. 2001;136(1):128-32.
9. Wilkinson D, Nicholls S, Pattenden C, Kilduff P, Milberg W. Galvanic vestibular stimulation speeds visual memory recall. Exp Brain Res. 2008;189(2):243-8.
10. Dilda V, MacDougall HG, Curthoys IS, Moore ST. Effects of galvanic vestibular stimulation on cognitive function. Exp Brain Res. 2012;216(2):275-85.
11. Utz KS, Dimova V, Oppenländer K, Kerkhoff G. Electrified minds: transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) as methods of non-invasive brain stimulation in neuropsychology--a review of current data and future implications. Neuropsychologia. 2010;48(10):2789-810.
12. Kessels RP, van Zandvoort MJ, Postma A, Kappelle LJ, de Haan EH. The corsi block-tapping task: standardization and normative data. Appl Neuropsychol. 2000;7(4):252-8.
13. Holstein GR, Friedrich Jr VL, Martinelli GP, Ogorodnikov D, Yakushin SB, Cohen B. Fos expression in neurons of the rat vestibulo-autonomic pathway activated by sinusoidal galvanic vestibular stimulation. Front Neurol. 2012;28:3-4.
14. Piccardi L, Iaria G, Ricci M, Bianchini F, Zompanti L, Guariglia C. Walking in the corsi test: which type of memory do you need? Neurosci Lett. 2008;432(2):127-31.
15. Hüfner K, Hamilton DA, Kalla R, Stephan T, Glasauer S, Ma J, et al. Spatial memory and hippocampal volume in humans with unilateral vestibular deafferentation. Hippocampus. 2007;17(6):471-85.
16. Piccardi L, Iaria G, Bianchini F, Zompanti L, Guariglia C. Dissociated deficits of visuo-spatial memory in near space and navigational space: evidence from brain-damaged patients and healthy older participants. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2011;18(3):362-84.
IssueVol 23 No 1 (2014) QRcode
SectionResearch Article(s)
Galvanic vestibular stimulation vestibular system hippocampus visuo-spatial memory

Rights and permissions
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
How to Cite
Ghaheri F, Adel Ghahraman M, Jarollahi F, Jalaie S. Visuo-spatial memory enhancement by galvanic vestibular stimulation: A preliminary report. Aud Vestib Res. 2017;23(1):50-61.