Vestibular Function and Hippocampal Volume in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA)

Rebecca J. Kamil, Athira Jacob, John Tilak Ratnanather, Susan M. Resnick, Yuri Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: This study evaluated whether reduced vestibular function in aging adults is associated with lower hippocampal volume. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, a long-running longitudinal cohort study of healthy aging. Patients: Eligible participants were aged ≥ 60 years and had both vestibular physiological testing and brain magnetic resonance imaging at the same visit. Intervention: Vestibular function testing consisted of the cervical vestibular-evoked myogenic potential (cVEMP) to assess saccular function, ocular VEMP to assess utricular function, and video head-impulse testing to assess the horizontal semicircular canal vestibulo-ocular reflex. Main Outcome Measure: Hippocampal volume calculated using diffeomorphometry. Results: The study sample included 103 participants (range of 35-90 participants in subanalyses) with mean (±SD) age 77.2 years (±8.71). Multivariate linear models including age, intracranial volume, sex, and race showed that 1 μV amplitude increase of cVEMP was associated with an increase of 319.1 mm 3 (p = 0.003) in mean hippocampal volume. We did not observe a significant relationship between ocular VEMP amplitude or vestibulo-ocular reflex gain and mean hippocampal volume. Conclusions: Lower cVEMP amplitude (i.e., reduced saccular function) was significantly associated with lower mean hippocampal volume. This is in line with previous work demonstrating a link between saccular function and spatial cognition. Hippocampal atrophy may be a mechanism by which vestibular loss contributes to impaired spatial cognition in older adults. Future work using longitudinal data will be needed to evaluate the causal nature of the association between vestibular loss and hippocampal atrophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-771
Number of pages7
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • BLSA
  • Hippocampal volume
  • Older adults
  • Saccule
  • Vestibular function
  • cVEMP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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