Characterizing gaze and postural stability deficits in people with multiple sclerosis

Brian J. Loyd, Lindsey Agnew, Annie Fangman, Anne Thackeray, Daniel S. Peterson, Michael C. Schubert, Lee Dibble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: People with Multiple Sclerosis (PwMS) experience a wide range of symptoms that can alter function and limit activity and community participation. Symptoms including sensory changes, weakness, fatigue and others have been well documented. However, symptoms related to changes in vestibular related function, including gaze and postural stability have not been fully explored. While some recent studies have begun to provide insight into these deficits in PwMS and have explored the use of rehabilitation paradigms for their management, much remains unknown about the full extent of these deficits. Therefore, this study aimed to characterize the presence of gaze and postural stability deficits in measures across the World Health Organization International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (WHO ICF) and to examine how deficits in domains of body structure and function and activity contribute to participation level limitations. Methods: Baseline data from 41 PwMS (mean(SD) age = 53.9(11.2), 78% female) enrolled as part of a randomized clinical trial were used in this analysis. Measures of gaze and postural stability from the ICF domains of body structure and function (Vestibular ocular reflex [VOR] gain and postural sway area), activity (computerized dynamic visual acuity [cDVA] and MiniBEST test), and participation (Dizziness handicap inventory [DHI] and Activities Balance Confidence [ABC] scale) along with demographic data were used to characterize the sample. To explore relationships between ICF domains for gaze and postural stability, univariate correlations were performed between measures from each domain using Pearson's correlations. Separate multivariate regression models examined how measures from the body structure and function and activity domains contributed to the variance in the participation level outcomes. Variance explained by the models was quantified using R-squared statistic and contribution of the independent variables were quantified using the beta coefficient (p < 0.05). Results: Correlation analysis demonstrated significant relationships in the postural stability measures across domains. Specifically, between postural sway area on a firm surface and MiniBEST test score (r = -.48;p < 0.01) and MiniBEST test score and ABC score (r = 0.5;p < 0.01). Significant correlations were also found between the gaze stability measures of horizontal and vertical VOR gain (r = .68;p < 0.001), horizontal VOR gain and dynamic visual acuity (r = .38;p = 0.02), and vertical VOR gain and dynamic visual acuity (r = .54;p < 0.001). Regression models assessing postural stability, found that only the MiniBEST score significantly contributed to the variance in ABC score (p = 0.01) and the full model explained 34% of the variance in ABC score. Regression modeling of gaze stability outcomes did not produce any variable that significantly contributed to the variance in DHI score and the full model explained 18% of the variance in DHI score. Conclusions: PwMS in this sample demonstrated deficits in gaze and postural stability across the domains of the WHO ICF compared to past samples of PwMS and healthy cohorts. Correlation between measures in the different domains were present, but no strong relationship between measures of body structure and function, activity and participation level outcomes were observed. This lack of relationship across the domains is likely contributed to the relatively small sample size, the high level of variability observed in the outcomes, and the diverse presentation often seen in PwMS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103205
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Balance
  • Gaze stability
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Postural stability
  • Vestibular


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