Neuroimaging Markers of Mal de Débarquement Syndrome

Yoon Hee Cha, Lei Ding, Han Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Mal de débarquement syndrome (MdDS) is a motion-induced disorder of oscillating vertigo that persists after the motion has ceased. The neuroimaging characteristics of the MdDS brain state have been investigated with studies on brain metabolism, structure, functional connectivity, and measurements of synchronicity. Baseline metabolism and resting-state functional connectivity studies indicate that a limbic focus in the left entorhinal cortex and amygdala may be important in the pathology of MdDS, as these structures are hypermetabolic in MdDS and exhibit increased functional connectivity to posterior sensory processing areas and reduced connectivity to the frontal and temporal cortices. Both structures are tunable with periodic stimulation, with neurons in the entorhinal cortex required for spatial navigation, acting as a critical efferent pathway to the hippocampus, and sending and receiving projections from much of the neocortex. Voxel-based morphometry measurements have revealed volume differences between MdDS and healthy controls in hubs of multiple resting-state networks including the default mode, salience, and executive control networks. In particular, volume in the bilateral anterior cingulate cortices decreases and volume in the bilateral inferior frontal gyri/anterior insulas increases with longer duration of illness. Paired with noninvasive neuromodulation interventions, functional neuroimaging with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and simultaneous fMRI-EEG have shown changes in resting-state functional connectivity that correlate with symptom modulation, particularly in the posterior default mode network. Reduced parieto-occipital connectivity with the entorhinal cortex and reduced long-range fronto-parieto-occipital connectivity correlate with symptom improvement. Though there is a general theme of desynchronization correlating with reduced MdDS symptoms, the prediction of optimal stimulation parameters for noninvasive brain stimulation in individuals with MdDS remains a challenge due to the large parameter space. However, the pairing of functional neuroimaging and noninvasive brain stimulation can serve as a probe into the biological underpinnings of MdDS and iteratively lead to optimal parameter space identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number636224
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Mar 4 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Mal de Debarquement Balance Disorders Foundation, MnDRIVE Scholars Program, and the National Science Foundation RII Track-2 FEC 1539068.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Cha, Ding and Yuan.


  • functional MRI
  • independent component phase coherence
  • mal de débarquement syndrome
  • noninvasive brain stimulation
  • persistent oscillating vertigo
  • positron emission tomography
  • voxel-based morphometry

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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