Faisal Karmali, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Principal Investigator

Co-Director, Jenks Vestibular Physiology Laboratory

Research Summary

Research Area Affiliations

Research Summary

Dr. Karmali’s research seeks to understand how the brain determines spatial orientation when using senses such as the vestibular system and vision. Most recently, he has been interested in how neural noise results in errors in motion perception, posture, the vestibulo-ocular reflex (eye movements that respond to head movement), and a piloting task. These errors can be critical to survival, yet our understanding of their origins and our ability to test them clinically is still evolving. 

Dr. Karmali has made a number of important findings using both human experimental studies and dynamic computational models, applying techniques such as perceptual thresholds, trial-to-trial variability in motor responses and Kalman filters. He has led studies funded by the NIH/NIDCD and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. He has also been invited to speak nationally and internationally and authored many peer-reviewed publications. His recent collaborations include MIT, NASA, University of Colorado Boulder, The Ohio State University, and University of Houston. 

Dr. Karmali and his collaborators recently discovered that a common motion-sickness medication adversely impacts vestibular perception. They have also elucidated how subclinical inter-subject differences in vestibular function contribute to individual differences in postural control and a piloting task. They found that errors in eye movements and perception are similar across a range of stimulus amplitudes. They have also shown that changes the vestibular-evoked eye movements with age follow a dynamic Bayesian framework, meaning that the brain makes optimal use of degraded sensory information. Finally, they have published the most extensive comparison of vestibular and visual perceptual precision.

Select Publications

Variability in the vestibulo-ocular reflex and vestibular perception. Nouri S, Karmali F. Neuroscience. 2018. doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.08.025 2. 

Human manual control precision depends on vestibular sensory precision and gravitational magnitude. Rosenberg MJ, Galvan-Garza RC, Clark TK, Sherwood DP, Young LR, Karmali F. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2018. Accepted.

Bayesian optimal adaptation explains age-related human sensorimotor changes. Karmali F, Whitman GT, Lewis RF. J Neurophysiol. 2018 Feb 1;119(2):509–520.

Multivariate analyses of balance test performance, vestibular thresholds, and age. Karmali F, Bermúdez Rey MC, Clark TK, Wang W, Merfeld DM. Front Neurol. 2017 Nov 8;8:578.

The impact of oral promethazine on human whole-body motion perceptual thresholds. Diaz-Artiles A, Priesol AJ, Clark TK, Sherwood DP, Oman CM, Young LR, Karmali F. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2017 Aug;18(4):581–590.

Visual and vestibular perceptual thresholds each demonstrate better precision at specific frequencies and also exhibit optimal integration. Karmali F, Lim K, Merfeld DM. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2014 Jun 15;111(12):2393–403.

A distributed, dynamic, parallel computational model: the role of noise in velocity storage.  Karmali F, Merfeld DM. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2012 Jul;108(2):390–405.

The dynamics of parabolic flight: flight characteristics and passenger percepts.  Karmali F, Shelhamer M. Acta Astronautica. 2008;63:594–602.

View a complete list of publications on pubmed.gov »

View publications on Google Scholar »



BA, Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, 2000
PhD, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 2008

Postgraduate Training

Research Fellowship, Sensory Perception, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Advisory Boards

2010–present: Biomedical Engineering Industrial Professional Advisory Committee, Wentworth Institute of Technology


Co-instructor, "Sensory-Neural Systems," Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014
Guest lecturer, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Physiological Systems Analysis, 2008–2013

Awards and Honors

  • Research award (R03) from the NIH/NIDCD entitled, "Measuring and isolating imprecision in vestibular perception and action"
  • Research award from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute to study “Countermeasures to Reduce Sensorimotor Impairment and Space Motion Sickness Resulting from Altered Gravity Levels” in collaboration with MIT