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Unilateral vestibular deafferentation impairs embodied spatial cognition

Abstract : A growing number of studies indicate that cognitive complaints are common in patients with peripheral vestibular disorders. A better understanding of how vestibular disorders influence cognition in these patients requires a clear delineation of the cognitive domains affected by vestibular disorders. Here, we compared the consequences of left and right vestibular neurec-tomy on third-person perspective taking-a visuo-spatial task requiring mainly own-body mental imagery, and on 3D objects mental rotation imagery-requiring object-based mental imagery, but no perspective taking. Patients tested 1 week after a unilateral vestibular neurectomy and a group of age-and gender-matched healthy participants played a virtual ball-tossing game from their own first-person perspective (1PP) and from the perspective of a distant avatar (third-person perspective, 3PP). Results showed larger response times in the patients with respect to their controls for the 3PP taking task, but not for the 1PP task and the 3D objects mental imagery. In addition, we found that only patients with left vestibular neurectomy presented altered 3PP taking abilities when compared to their controls. This study suggests that unilateral vestibular loss affects mainly own-body mental transformation and that only left vestibular loss seems to impair this cognitive process. Our study also brings further evidence that vestibular signals contribute to the sensorimotor bases of social cognition and strengthens the connections between the so far distinct fields of social neuroscience and human vestibular physiology.
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Diane Deroualle, Liliane Borel, Brandon Tanguy, Laurence Bernard-Demanze, Arnaud Devèze, et al.. Unilateral vestibular deafferentation impairs embodied spatial cognition. European Journal of Neurology, Wiley, 2019, 1, ⟨10.1007/s00415-019-09433-7⟩. ⟨hal-02553545⟩

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