Background: In a previous study on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), we showed that vestibular
dysfunction derived from cerebral disorders contributes to balance disorders. No previous clinical
study has attempted to prevent the progression of balance disorders in dementia patients
through vestibular stimulation using an air caloric device.
Objective: The purpose of this pilot study was to delay the progression of balance disorders by inducing
vestibular compensation, specifically by utilizing the effect of vestibular stimulation to activate
Methods: Fifteen individuals were randomized and classified into a stimulation group or a nonstimulation
group. Eight AD patients underwent vestibular stimulation every 2 weeks for 6 months in
the stimulation group. Seven AD patients participated in the nonstimulation group (the control
group). Both groups were subsequently evaluated using a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE),
stepping test, caloric test, and smooth pursuit eye movement test just before starting the study
and 6 months later.
Results: For balance parameters, the various tests did not show any significant differences between
the two groups. However, in the stepping test, the decline rate tended to be higher in the nonstimulation
group than in the stimulation group. The stimulation group’s rate of decline in MMSE scores
was lower than that of the nonstimulation group (p=0.015). No adverse events were tracked during
the present study.
Conclusion: Repeated vestibular stimulation might help patients retain greater balance and higher
function. To prove these effects, the future clinical application will require an increased number of
cases and longer periods of vestibular stimulation. This study showed that vestibular stimulation by
air caloric device is safe and tolerable in patients with AD.