Professor of Biopsychology, Ph.D., retired

by Harry Hughes, Ph.D.
(Reidsville, Georgia, USA)

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS) is a little known, rare disorder that affects balance and proprioceptive sense. The syndrome affects females primarily, but not exclusively. Onset occurs typically after 50 years of age, often (but not exclusively) following a sea cruise or sudden change in medications used to treat depression and/or anxiety. Symptoms include bodily sensations of bobbing, swaying, and rocking. Also noted is a feeling of fogginess in mental state, as if a balloon has been inflated inside one's head. Other symptoms include loss of balance while standing or ambulating and an inability to concentrate on mentally demanding tasks. Paradoxically, symptoms abate when one is moved passively, as when driving a car or riding a train, but exacerbate when exiting the vehicle of transport. MdDS is a disorder of exclusion, diagnosed only after all other possible causes have been eliminated. There are no signs, only symptoms.

No definitive set of neurological pathologies have as yet been associated with this disorder, although the condition almost certainly derives from central anomaly. Structural damage to, or irregular functioning of, vestibular organs has not been noted with MdDS. Vestibular therapy seems not to improve the condition.

Anomalous functioning in the triangularization of central visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive processing seems likely.

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