Results from a Bavarian study show promise for better rehabilitation of patients with vestibular or cerebellar dysfunction. The Vestibular system controls how balanced we are. Researchers from the Ludwig-Maximilians University Centre for Vertigo and Balance Disorders have been looking at how when we shift our gaze our eye and head movements are coordinated.In collaboration with the Center for Sensorimotor Diseases they wanted to look at how the vestibular system could optimize motor skills.Using human subjects the researchers at first used a mathematical model that predicted the horizontal movements of the head and the eyes when presented with an off-center stimulus. Subjects unknowingly and unconsciously chose a movement pattern associated with the least error in the endpoint.
Patients that had problems of the vestibular system or the cerebellum were discovered to find it more difficult to control their gaze when asked to respond their immediate environment.
It has been reported that information relayed from the balance organs to the vestibular system is absolutely essential for the optimization of a shift in gaze ans also shows how vital the vestibular system is for gaining the optimum voluntary motor movement.
Rehabilitation for patients who have suffered damage in these core areas would have physio treatment based on active head movements, as head movements provide the vestibular feedback which generates the sensorimotor error messages that underlie the ability to learn how to optimize the coordination of eye and head movements. Instead of trying to hold their heads steady, these patients should be encouraged to actively move their heads, when they shift their gaze.
The question if patients with partial vestibulopathy can optimize gaze shift behavior by engaging in active head movements is now under investigation