Association between vestibular function and rotational spatial orientation perception in older adults

E. Anson, M. R. Ehrenburg, E. M. Simonsick, Y. Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Spatial orientation is a complex process involving vestibular sensory input and possibly cognitive ability. Previous research demonstrated that rotational spatial orientation was worse for individuals with profound bilateral vestibular dysfunction. OBJECTIVE: Determine whether rotational and linear vestibular function were independently associated with large amplitude rotational spatial orientation perception in healthy aging. METHODS: Tests of rotational spatial orientation accuracy and vestibular function [vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), ocular and cervical vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP)] were administered to 272 healthy community-dwelling adults participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Using a mixed model multiple linear regression we regressed spatial orientation errors on lateral semicircular canal function, utricular function (ocular VEMP), and saccular function (cervical VEMP) in a single model controlling for rotation size, age, and sex. RESULTS: After adjusting for age, and sex, individuals with bilaterally low VOR gain (β= 20.9, p = 0.014) and those with bilaterally absent utricular function (β= 9.32, p = 0.017) made significantly larger spatial orientation errors relative to individuals with normal vestibular function. CONCLUSIONS: The current results demonstrate for the first time that either bilateral lateral semicircular canal dysfunction or bilateral utricular dysfunction are associated with worse rotational spatial orientation. We also demonstrated in a healthy aging cohort that increased age also contributes to spatial orientation ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-478
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Vestibular Research: Equilibrium and Orientation
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Vestibular function
  • aging
  • spatial orientation
  • visuospatial ability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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