Balance sensory systems

Your brain combines the input from three sensory systems to give your body a sense of balance and orientation in relation to your surroundings.

  • Vision provides one form of information about how you are moving in relation to the rest of the world. This is a very important part of the balance system and often overrides information from the other sensory systems.
  • Sensory nerves in the joints allow your brain to keep track of the position of your arms, legs, and trunk. Your brain uses this information to automatically make tiny changes in your posture that help maintain your balance.
  • A part of the inner ear, including the labyrinth or semicircular canals, detects motion and acceleration.

If one of these balance-sensing systems is diseased or injured, it may stop working or send information to the brain that conflicts with information from the other sensory systems. This can result in a feeling of dizziness or in the whirling sensation called vertigo. A part of the balance-sensing system also can send conflicting information to the brain because of motion during travel. This can create motion sickness, a common condition that may cause nausea and vomiting.

Last Updated: July 2, 2008

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