Reactivity of the Vestibular System to Caloric Vestibular Stimulation in Schizophrenia

  • End date
    Dec 31, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Updated on 13 June 2022
psychiatric disorder
schizoaffective disorder
Accepts healthy volunteers


This study aims to determine if individuals with schizophrenia have greater reactivity to vestibular stimulation than healthy controls. The physiological response of vestibular stimulation will be assessed with electronystagmography, which provides a measure of the intensity of the nystagmus via PSPV. Positive results would suggest greater vestibular system reactivity to vestibular stimulation may be a biomarker of schizophrenia. Pathophysiologically, increased vestibular reactivity to vestibular stimulation may reflect abnormal vestibular function or impaired central suppression of the vestibular ocular reflex.


In schizophrenia, there is no conclusive link between psychopathology and vestibular dysfunction and we are not aware of any data that exists on the range of responses to caloric vestibular stimulation (CVS) in persons with schizophrenia. Initial data from another CVS study from our group suggests individuals with schizophrenia have greater reactivity to body temperature (37°C) CVS, as measured by the peak slow phase velocity of the resulting nystagmus (PSPV), than would be expected from individuals without schizophrenia versus healthy participants. Intriguingly, CVS at 37°C should not theoretically produce a significant vestibulocular reflex response due to the stimulus' approximation to body temperature. Hence, the primary aim of this study is to determine if individuals with schizophrenia will have greater vestibular reactivity, as measured by nystagmus PSPV, to CVS in comparison with healthy participants. The secondary aim is to assess illness awareness pre and post CVS administration in attempts to replicate our previous observation. A total of 20 patients with schizophrenia and 20 healthy control participants will be recruited. All participants will receive three conditions bilaterally: (1) body temperature (37°C) vestibular stimulation; (2) warm CVS (44°C), and (3) cold CVS (30°C).

Condition Schizophrenia, Healthy
Treatment Left body temperature VS, Right body temperature VS, Left warm CVS, Right warm CVS, Left cold CVS, Right cold CVS
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03048370
SponsorCentre for Addiction and Mental Health
Last Modified on13 June 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Male or female inpatients or outpatients age ≥18
Having a DSM-5 diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder
Voluntary and capable of consenting to participation in the research study
Fluent in English
Inclusion Criteria for Healthy Controls group
Male or female and age ≥18
Voluntary and capable of consenting to participation in the research study
Fluent in English
Absence of history of psychiatric illness using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI)

Exclusion Criteria

Serious unstable medical illness or any concomitant major medical or neurological illness
Acute suicidal and/or homicidal ideation
Formal thought disorder rating of over 2 on the Scale for Assessment of Positive Symptoms (SAPS) [patients only]
DSM-IV substance dependence (except caffeine and nicotine) within one month prior to entering the study
Pregnant women
Positive urine drug screen
History of external or middle ear pathology
History or signs of middle ear surgery (e.g. Tympanoplasty, mastoidectomy)
Signs of active ear disease
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