Vestibulo-cortical hemispheric dominance: The link between anxiety and the vestibular system?
journal contributionposted on 19.07.2019, 12:58 by Nadja F. Bednarczuk, Marta Casanovas Ortega, Anne‐Sophie Fluri, Qadeer Arshad
Vestibular processing and anxiety networks are functionally intertwined, as demonstrated by reports of reciprocal influences upon each other. Yet whether there is an underlying link between these two systems remains unknown. Previous findings have highlighted the involvement of hemispheric lateralisation in processing of both anxiety and vestibular signals. Accordingly, we explored the interaction between vestibular cortical processing and anxiety by assessing the relationship between anxiety levels and the degree of hemispheric lateralisation of vestibulo-cortical processing in 64 right-handed, healthy individuals. Vestibulo-cortical hemispheric lateralisation was determined by gaging the degree of caloric-induced nystagmus suppression following modulation of cortical excitability using trans-cranial direct current stimulation targeted over the posterior parietal cortex, an area implicated in the processing of vestibular signals. The degree of nystagmus suppression yields an objective biomarker, allowing the quantification of the degree of right vestibulo-cortical hemisphere dominance. Anxiety levels were quantified using the Trait component of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Questionnaire. Our findings demonstrate that the degree of an individual's vestibulo-cortical hemispheric dominance correlates with their anxiety levels. That is, those individuals with greater right hemispheric vestibulo-cortical dominance exhibited lower levels of anxiety. By extension, our results support the notion that hemispheric lateralisation determines an individual's emotional processing, thereby linking cortical circuits involved in processing anxiety and vestibular signals, respectively.