Vertigo can make the world seem to spin, even when you’re sitting down.
It’s caused by problems with your vestibular system, which is the one that sends balance information to your brain.
Most of it is based in your ears and brain, and it’s like a clever internal compass that knows your body position and orientation in relation to gravity.
Every time you move it looks at the information it receives from your sensory organs and adjusts your perceptions to suit.
The most common causes of vertigo are all vestibular problems like Meniere’s disease and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Since our eyes and ears play such a large role in our vestibular systems, many researchers have become interested in the ways that impaired vestibular systems affect those of our cognitive abilities that depend on these two organs.
Iranian scientists have just added to this body of research with an article in the journal Auditory and Vestibular Research. They were interested in the ways in which impaired vestibular systems (or basically vertigo) affect our auditory-verbal memory and our ability to read.
Auditory-verbal memory is our ability to receive, process, store, and recall speech sounds. We use it when we learn language, when we speak, and when we write.
They recruited 71 volunteers with an average age of 48, all of whom had a vestibular impairment diagnosis like Meniere’s disease and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
They were then given a few standard cognitive tests like the Persian reading test and the Rey auditory-verbal learning test to measure these cognitive abilities.
The study found no difference in the auditory-verbal memory and reading ability of the different type of vertigo sufferers, meaning that the cause of vertigo isn’t important here.
When they compared the performance of their subjects with normal adults, however, they noticed that the vertigo sufferers were a lot worse at reading and memorizing auditory-verbal information.
The researchers aren’t sure why vertigo disrupts these two cognitive processes so much, but they offered some educated guesses based on previous research.
When we read word-for-word, we move both our eyes and our heads. But people with vertigo have learned not to move their heads because it triggers their vertigo. So, when they read, their heads are static, and this may slow down their reading.
Another possibility is that vertigo sufferers have a problem with focusing their eyes on things, maybe because the rapid eye movements they experience during a vertigo attack could have caused permanent damage.
The Vestibular Disorders Association reports that a common experience of vertigo sufferers is that objects on a page seem to move, blur, or double. So, it’s no wonder their reading is affected.
Because our ears are involved in vertigo, certain sounds can trigger it. Sufferers experience hearing loss or fluctuations and noises in their ears. These auditory effects probably affect our auditory-verbal memories too, although the mechanisms still remain something of a mystery.