Cortex & Cognition

Beyond its well-known functions in postural, oculomotor and neurovegetative reflexes, the vestibular system contributes to many facets of perception, emotion, cognition, and representations of the body and self [1]. These contributions to high-level perceptual and cognitive functions are underpinned by neural pathways carrying vestibular information from inner ear sensors to the thalamus, cerebral cortex and basal ganglia.

Why investigating the perceptual and cognitive functions of the vestibular system?

The cognitive functions of the vestibular system, as well as the localisation and neurophysiology of the vestibulo-thalamo-cortical system, have been much less explored than the ‘reflex’ functions of the vestibular system. However, vestibular disorders can induce spatial memory deficits and are sometimes accompanied by psychiatric comorbidities, such as anxiety and depression [2]. Vestibular impairment accounts for 14% of the effects of age on cognitive decline and relations between vestibular impairment and dementia are investigated [3].

1.   Lopez, C. (2016). The vestibular system: balancing more than just the body. Curr. Opin. Neurol. 29, 74–83.

2.   Brandt, T., and Dieterich, M. (2020). “Excess anxiety” and “less anxiety”: both depend on vestibular function. Curr. Opin. Neurol. 33, 136–141.

3.   Smith, P.F. (2017). The vestibular system and cognition. Curr. Opin. Neurol. 30, 84–89.

Main team's objectives

Investigating the reciprocal relations between the vestibular sense and cognition may benefit the diagnosis and rehabilitation of patients with otoneurological, neurodevelopmental or psychiatric disorders.

The major challenges in this field and the main team’s objectives are to better understand:

  • The anatomy and physiology of the vestibular pathways and the vestibular cortex
  • The role of the vestibular system in spatial representations and in cognition more generally
  • The role of the vestibular system in emotions
  • The influence of vestibular disorders in the decline of cognitive functions
  • The consequences of early vestibular system damage in the psychomotor development of children and adolescents
  • How cognition and emotions modify balance and vestibular perception
  • Psychological and psychiatric consequences of vestibular damage
  • The consequences of microgravity on perception, cognition and emotions

The Team

The achievement of the team’s objectives requires skills in neuroimaging, neuropsychology, vestibular medicine, cognitive neuroscience, movement analysis, etc., which are present in laboratories and clinical services spread over several cities in France and French-speaking countries, hence the creation of an “extramural” team specialized in the study of “high-level” vestibular functions.

The team is composed of 14 members:

ASSAINTE Christine (CNRS, Marseille)

BERTHOZ Alain (Collège de France, Paris)

BRINGOUX Lionel (Aix-Marseille Université)

DENISE Pierre (Université de Caen)

ELZIERE Maya (Hôpital Européen, Marseille)

HAUTEFORT Charlotte (Hôpital Lariboisière, Paris)

LACROIX Émilie (Faculté de Psychologie Université Catholique de Louvain)

LOPEZ Christophe (CNRS, Marseille), responsable de l’équipe.

SENOT Patrice (Université de Paris)

SEVERAC-CAUQUIL Alexandra (CNRS, Toulouse)

SIMON François (Hôpital Necker, Paris)

TAGLIABUE Michele (CNRS, Paris)

TOUPET Michel (Centre d’Otoneurologie Falguières, Paris)

WIENER-VACHER Sylvette (Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris)


250 000 vues pour l'E-book en accès libre: The Vestibular System in Cognitive and Memory Processes in Mammalians édité par Stéphane Besnard, Christophe Lopez, Thomas Brandt, Pierre Denise et Paul F. Smith

60 286 vues pour l'E-book en accès libre: Role of Inner Ear in Self and Environment Perception
édité par Alexis Bozorg Grayeli, Christophe Lopez, Christian van Nechel et Michel Toupet