Vortical flow in the utricle and the ampulla: A computational study on the fluid dynamics of the vestibular system

Institute of Fluid Dynamics, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstrasse 3, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland, .
Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology (Impact Factor: 3.15). 05/2012; 12(2). DOI: 10.1007/s10237-012-0402-y
Source: PubMed


We present a computational study of the fluid dynamics in healthy semicircular canals (SCCs) and the utricle. The SCCs are the primary sensors for angular velocity and are located in the vestibular part of the inner ear. The SCCs are connected to the utricle that hosts the utricular macula, a sensor for linear acceleration. The transduction of angular motion is triggered by the motion of a fluid called endolymph and by the interaction of this fluid with the sensory structures of the SCC. In our computations, we observe a vortical flow in the utricle and in the ampulla (the enlarged terminal part of the SCCs) which can lead to flow velocities in the utricle that are even higher than those in the SCCs. This is a fundamentally new result which is in contrast to the common belief that the fluid velocities in the utricle are negligible from a physiological point of view. Moreover, we show that the wall shear stresses in the utricle and the ampulla are maximized at the positions of the sensory epithelia. Possible physiological and clinical implications are discussed.

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    • "is computed numerically by time integration of the flow rate at a cross-section A c of the SCC, where nc is the normal vector on the surface A c (Boselli et al., 2013b). "
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    ABSTRACT: In our daily life, small flows in the semicircular canals (SCCs) of the inner ear displace a sensory structure called the cupula which mediates the transduction of head angular velocities to afferent signals. We consider a dysfunction of the SCCs known as canalithiasis. Under this condition, small debris particles disturb the flow in the SCCs and can cause benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), arguably the most common form of vertigo in humans. The diagnosis of BPPV is mainly based on the analysis of typical eye movements (positional nystagmus) following provocative head maneuvers that are known to lead to vertigo in BPPV patients. These eye movements are triggered by the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and their velocity provides an indirect measurement of the cupula displacement. An attenuation of the vertigo and the nystagmus is often observed when the provocative maneuver is repeated. This attenuation is known as BPPV fatigue. It was not quantitatively described so far, and the mechanisms causing it remain unknown. We quantify fatigue by eye velocity measurements and propose a fluid dynamic interpretation of our results based on a computational model for the fluid-particle dynamics of a SCC with canalithiasis. Our model suggests that the particles may not go back to their initial position after a first head maneuver such that a second head maneuver leads to different particle trajectories causing smaller cupula displacements.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Journal of Biomechanics
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    ABSTRACT: Benign paroxismal positional vertigo (BPPV) is modeled by introducing free-floating particles (canaliths) which settle inside the semicircular canals (SCC). The Stokes flow induced by a canalith is evaluated by coupling the force coupling method (FCM) to the method of fundamental solutions (MFS). The proposed methodology results in a straightforward meshless boundary method for the simulation of bounded Stokes flow with finite-size particles. (© 2010 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)
    Preview · Article · Dec 2010 · PAMM
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    ABSTRACT: The method of fundamental solutions (MFS) is a meshless method for the solution of boundary value problems and has recently been proposed as a simple and efficient method for the solution of Stokes flow problems. The MFS approximates the solution by an expansion of fundamental solutions whose singularities are located outside the flow domain. Typically, the source points (i.e. the singularities of the fundamental solutions) are confined to a smooth source layer embracing the flow domain. This monolayer implementation of the MFS (monolayer MFS) depends strongly on the location of the user-defined source points: On the one hand, increasing the distance of the source points from the boundary tends to increase the convergence rate. On the other hand, this may limit the achievable accuracy. This often results in an unfavorable compromise between the convergence rate and the achievable accuracy of the MFS. The idea behind the present work is that a multilayer implementation of the MFS (multilayer MFS) can improve the robustness of the MFS by efficiently resolving different scales of the solution by source layers at different distances from the boundary. We propose a block greedy-QR algorithm (BGQRa) which exploits this property in a multilevel fashion. The proposed multilayer MFS is much more robust than the monolayer MFS and can compute Stokes flows on general two-and three-dimensional domains. It converges rapidly and yields high levels of accuracy by combining the properties of distant and close source points. The block algorithm alleviates the overhead of multiple source layers and allows the multilayer MFS to outperform the monolayer MFS. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2012 · Journal of Computational Physics
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