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The aim of this series of experiments was to determine whether attention is normally required for continuously processing vestibular information concerning orientation, or is required only when orientation is disrupted (eg by vestibular dysfunction or by conflicting visual and vestibular orientation cues). In the first two studies, healthy subjects were passively oscillated, and indicated when they perceived they were passing through their starting position. There was only weak evidence for interference between performance on this 'continuous orientation monitoring task' and on concurrent mental tasks. However, a third study showed that when patients with vestibular imbalance carried out the continuous orientation monitoring task their performance on a concurrent mental arithmetic task was substantially impaired. This dual task interference was correlated with inaccuracy in judging orientation on the continuous orientation monitoring task, which in turn correlated with severity of recent vestibular symptomatology (assessed by questionnaire). In a fourth experiment, disorientation was induced in healthy subjects by rotating the visual field about the line of sight. Bidirectional interference was observed between monitoring orientation (assessed by accuracy in setting a rod to the perceived vertical) and performance of an arithmetic task. Dual task interference was correlated with baseline levels of disorientation induced by the visual field, as indicated by inaccuracy in judging the visual vertical. These findings suggest that monitoring orientation makes significant demands upon cortical processing resources when disorientation is induced, whether the disorientation results from deficient sensory functioning or from ambiguous perceptual information. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal article



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373 - 383