Vestibular-Somatosensory Interactions: Effects of Passive Whole-Body Rotation on Somatosensory Detection
Vestibular signals are strongly integrated with information from several other sensory modalities. For example, vestibular stimulation was reported to improve tactile detection. However, this improvement could reflect either a multimodal interaction or an indirect interaction driven by vestibular effects on spatial attention and orienting. Here we investigate whether natural vestibular activation induced by passive whole-body rotation influences tactile detection. In particular, we assessed the ability to detect faint tactile stimuli to the fingertips of the left and right hand during spatially congruent or incongruent rotations. We found that passive whole-body rotations significantly enhanced sensitivity to faint shocks, without affecting response bias. Critically, this enhancement of somatosensory sensitivity did not depend on the spatial congruency between the direction of rotation and the hand stimulated. Thus, our results support a multimodal interaction, likely in brain areas receiving both vestibular and somatosensory signals.