Voxel-based morphometry depicts central compensation after vestibular neuritis




Patients who have had vestibular neuritis (VN) show a remarkable clinical improvement especially in gait and posture >6 months after disease onset.


Voxel-based morphometry was used to detect the VN-induced changes in gray and white matter by means of structural magnetic resonance imaging. Twenty-two patients were compared an average 2.5 years after onset of VN to a healthy sex-and age-matched control group.


Our analysis revealed that all patients had signal intensity increases for gray matter in the medial vestibular nuclei and the right gracile nucleus and for white matter in the area of the pontine commissural vestibular fibers. A relative atrophy was observed in the left posterior hippocampus and the right superior temporal gyrus. Patients with a residual canal paresis also showed an increase of gray matter in middle temporal (MT)/V5 bilaterally.


These findings indicate that the processes of central compensation after VN seem to occur in 3 different sensory systems. First of all, the vestibular system itself showed a white matter increase in the commissural fibers as a direct consequence of an increased internuclei vestibular crosstalk of the medial vestibular nuclei. Second, to regain postural stability, there was a shift to the somatosensory system due to an elevated processing of proprioceptive information in the right gracile nucleus. Third, there was a bilateral increase in the area of MT/V5 in VN patients with a residual peripheral vestibular hypofunction. This seems to be the result of an increased importance of visual motion processing. ANN NEUROL 2010;68:241–249