OBJECTIVE: To explore the mechanisms for skull tap induced vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP).
METHODS: The muscular responses were recorded over both sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles using skin electrodes. A skull tapper which provided a constant stimulus intensity was used to test cervical vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP) in response to lateral skull taps in healthy subjects (n=10) and in patients with severe unilateral loss of vestibular function (n=10).
RESULTS: Skull taps applied approximately 2 cm above the outer ear canal caused highly reproducible VEMP. There were differences in VEMP in both normals and patients depending on side of tapping. In normals, there was a positive-negative ("normal") VEMP on the side contra-lateral to the skull tapping, but no significant VEMP ipsi-laterally. In patients, skull taps above the lesioned ear caused a contra-lateral positive-negative VEMP (as it did in the normals), in addition there was an ipsi-lateral negative-positive ("inverted") VEMP. When skull taps were presented above the healthy ear there was only a small contra-lateral positive-negative VEMP but, similar to the normals, no VEMP ipsi-laterally.
CONCLUSIONS: The present data, in conjunction with earlier findings, support a theory that skull-tap VEMP responses are mediated by two different mechanisms. It is suggested that skull tapping causes both a purely ipsi-lateral stimulus side independent SCM response and a bilateral and of opposite polarity SCM response that is stimulus side dependent. Possibly, the skull tap induced VEMP responses are the sum of a stimulation of two species of vestibular receptors, one excited by vibration (which is rather stimulus site independent) and one excited by translation (which is more stimulus site dependent).
SIGNIFICANCE: Skull-tap VEMP probably have two different mechanisms. Separation of the two components might reveal the status of different labyrinthine functions.
2009. Vol. 120, no 5, 974-979 p.