Elisa Ferre: “Vestibular modulation of somatosensation”
CiNet 1F Conference Room
Department of Psychology
Royal Holloway,University of London
No unimodal vestibular cortex has been identified in the human brain. Rather vestibular inputs are strongly integrated with signals from other sensory modalities, such as vision, touch and proprioception. Here I will focus on how vestibular signals influence processing within other individual sensory channels. Using established techniques for artificially stimulating the vestibular system in healthy participants, we have recently demonstrated that vestibular inputs improve detection of faint touch stimuli delivered to the hand. Interestingly, vestibular stimulation has opposite effects on different somatosensory sub-modalities: psychophysical thresholds for touch and pain revealed a vestibular-induced enhancement of touch, but reduction in levels of pain. Vestibular signals have therefore projections to multiple independent somatic sensory systems, enhancing tactile perception and directly reducing acute pain perception. This vestibular rebalancing between senses may be a crucial element of the brain's capacity to reorient towards novel or salient features in the environment.