Clinical Case Study ARTICLE

Front. Psychiatry, 02 June 2014 |

Caloric vestibular stimulation as a treatment for conversion disorder: a case report and medical hypothesis

imageMichael Noll-Hussong1*, imageSabrina Holzapfel2, imageDan Pokorny1 and imageSimone Herberger3
  • 1Klinik und Poliklinik fuer Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie des Universitaetsklinikums Ulm, Ulm, Germany
  • 2Hals-Nasen-Ohrenklinik und Poliklinik, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Muenchen, Germany
  • 3Klinik fuer Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie des Klinikums Muenchen-Harlaching, Muenchen, Germany

Conversion disorder is a medical condition in which a person has paralysis, blindness, or other neurological symptoms that cannot be clearly explained physiologically. To date, there is neither specific nor conclusive treatment. In this paper, we draw together a number of disparate pieces of knowledge to propose a novel intervention to provide transient alleviation for this condition. As caloric vestibular stimulation has been demonstrated to modulate a variety of cognitive functions associated with brain activations, especially in the temporal–parietal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and insular cortex, there is evidence to assume an effect in specific mental disorders. Therefore, we go on to hypothesize that lateralized cold vestibular caloric stimulation will be effective in treating conversion disorder and we present provisional evidence from one patient that supports this conclusion. If our hypothesis is correct, this will be the first time in psychiatry and neurology that a clinically well-known mental disorder, long considered difficult to understand and to treat, is relieved by a simple or common, non-invasive medical procedure.

Keywords: conversion disorder, vestibular stimulation, case report, medical hypothesis

Citation: Noll-Hussong M, Holzapfel S, Pokorny D and Herberger S (2014) Caloric vestibular stimulation as a treatment for conversion disorder: a case report and medical hypothesis. Front. Psychiatry 5:63. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00063

Received: 04 April 2014; Paper pending published: 18 May 2014;
Accepted: 19 May 2014; Published online: 02 June 2014.

Edited by:

Ripu D. Jindal, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, USA

Reviewed by:

Tariq Munshi, Queen’s University, Canada
Casimiro Cabrera Abreu, Queen’s University, Canada

Copyright: © 2014 Noll-Hussong, Holzapfel, Pokorny and Herberger. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Michael Noll-Hussong, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 23, Ulm D-89081, Germany e-mail: