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Lehnen, Nadine; Schröder, Lena; Henningsen, Peter; Glasauer, Stefan and Ramaioli, Cecilia (2019): Deficient head motor control in functional dizziness: Experimental evidence of central sensory-motor dysfunction in persistent physical symptoms. In: Mathematical Modelling in Motor Neuroscience: State of the Art and Translation To the Clinic. Gaze Orienting Mechanisms and Disease, Vol. 249: pp. 385-400

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Understanding the mechanisms of symptoms that are insufficiently explained by organic dysfunction remains challenging. Recently, it has been proposed that such "functional symptoms" are based on erroneous sensory processing in the central nervous system (CNS), with internal expectations dominating sensory inputs. In a pilot study, we used a head motor control set-up to assess the interplay between sensory input and expectation on the example of patients with functional dizziness. Eight patients and 11 age-matched healthy controls performed large active eye-head gaze shifts towards visual targets in the natural situation and with the head moment of inertia 3.3-fold increased. The latter induces head oscillations and the expected sensory outcome of the movement, estimated in the CNS, does not match the actual sensory input. Head oscillations were assessed in patients and in healthy subjects and compared to prior results from patients with organic disease (vestibular loss and cerebellar ataxia). Head oscillations in patients with functional dizziness were different from those of healthy subjects (F(1,17) = 27.26, P<0.001, partial eta(2)=0.62), and similar to those of patients with cerebellar ataxia, and with vestibular loss (F(2,19) = 0.56, P = 0.58). Even in the natural, unweighted, condition, head oscillations were higher in functional dizziness patients than in healthy subjects (P = 0.001). Since an extensive work-up failed to demonstrate any explanatory peripheral vestibular, motor, or cerebellar organic dysfunction, these motor control deficits are a first indication of erroneous interplay between expectations and sensory input in the CNS that could account for persistent physical symptoms.

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