Model-based vestibular afferent stimulation: modular workflow for analyzing stimulation scenarios in patient specific and statistical vestibular anatomy

Our sense of balance and spatial orientation strongly depends on the correct functionality of our vestibular system. Vestibular dysfunction can lead to blurred vision and impaired balance and spatial orientation, causing a significant decrease in quality of life. Recent studies have shown that vestibular implants offer a possible treatment for patients with vestibular dysfunction. The close proximity of the vestibular nerve bundles, the facial nerve and the cochlear nerve poses a major challenge to targeted stimulation of the vestibular system. Modeling the electrical stimulation of the vestibular system allows for an efficient analysis of stimulation scenarios previous to time and cost intensive in vivo experiments. Current models are based on animal data or CAD models of human anatomy. In this work, a (semi-)automatic modular workflow is presented for the stepwise transformation of segmented vestibular anatomy data of human vestibular specimens to an electrical model and subsequently analyzed. The steps of this workflow include (i) the transformation of labeled datasets to a tetrahedra mesh, (ii) nerve fiber anisotropy and fiber computation as a basis for neuron models, (iii) inclusion of arbitrary electrode designs, (iv) simulation of quasistationary potential distributions, and (v) analysis of stimulus waveforms on the stimulation outcome. Results obtained by the workflow based on human datasets and the average shape of a statistical model revealed a high qualitative agreement and a quantitatively comparable range compared to data from literature, respectively. Based on our workflow, a detailed analysis of intra- and extra-labyrinthine electrode configurations with various stimulation waveforms and electrode designs can be performed on patient specific anatomy, making this framework a valuable tool for current optimization questions concerning vestibular implants in humans.


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