Vestibular testing-new physiological results for the optimization of clinical VEMP stimuli

Christopher J. Pastras, Ian S. Curthoys

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Both auditory and vestibular primary afferent neurons can be activated by sound and vibration. This review relates the differences between them to the different receptor/synaptic mechanisms of the two systems, as shown by indicators of peripheral function-cochlear and vestibular compound action potentials (cCAPs and vCAPs)-to click stimulation as recorded in animal studies. Sound- and vibration-sensitive type 1 receptors at the striola of the utricular macula are enveloped by the unique calyx afferent ending, which has three modes of synaptic transmission. Glutamate is the transmitter for both cochlear and vestibular primary afferents; however, blocking glutamate transmission has very little effect on vCAPs but greatly reduces cCAPs. We suggest that the ultrafast non-quantal synaptic mechanism called resistive coupling is the cause of the short latency vestibular afferent responses and related results-failure of transmitter blockade, masking, and temporal precision. This “ultrafast” non-quantal transmission is effectively electrical coupling that is dependent on the membrane potentials of the calyx and the type 1 receptor. The major clinical implication is that decreasing stimulus rise time increases vCAP response, corresponding to the increased VEMP response in human subjects. Short rise times are optimal in human clinical VEMP testing, whereas long rise times are mandatory for audiometric threshold testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-928
Number of pages19
JournalAudiology Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • VEMP
  • otoliths
  • compound action potential
  • CNQX
  • non-quantal
  • resistive coupling
  • sound
  • vibration


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