Equilibrioception or sense of balance
Balance (ability)
In biomechanics, balance is an ability to maintain the center of gravity of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway. When exercising the ability to balance, one is said to be balancing....

is one of the physiological
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

Senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide inputs for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology , and philosophy of perception...

s. It helps prevent human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s and animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s from falling over when walking
Walking is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step...

 or standing still. Balance is the result of a number of body systems working together: the eyes (visual system), ears (vestibular system
Vestibular system
The vestibular system, which contributes to balance in most mammals and to the sense of spatial orientation, is the sensory system that provides the leading contribution about movement and sense of balance. Together with the cochlea, a part of the auditory system, it constitutes the labyrinth of...

) and the body's sense of where it is in space (proprioception) ideally need to be intact. The vestibular system, the region of the inner ear where three semicircular canals converge, works with the visual system to keep objects in focus when the head is moving. This is called the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR)
Vestibulo-ocular reflex
The vestibulo-ocular reflex is a reflex eye movement that stabilizes images on the retina during head movement by producing an eye movement in the direction opposite to head movement, thus preserving the image on the center of the visual field. For example, when the head moves to the right, the...

. The balance system works with the visual and skeletal systems (the muscles and joints and their sensors) to maintain orientation or balance. Visual signals sent to the brain about the body's position in relation to its surroundings are processed by the brain and compared to information from the vestibular, visual and skeletal systems.

Normal balance functioning

Movement of fluid in the semicircular canals signals the brain about the direction and speed of rotation of the head - for example, whether we are nodding our head up and down or looking from right to left. Each semicircular canal has a bulbed end, or enlarged portion, that contains hair cells. Rotation of the head causes a flow of fluid, which in turn causes displacement of the top portion of the hair cells that are embedded in the jelly-like cupula.

Two other organs that are part of the vestibular system, the utricle and saccule, are called the otolithic organs and are responsible for detecting linear acceleration - movement in a straight line. The hair cells of the otolithic organs are blanketed with a jelly-like layer studded with tiny calcium stones called otoconia. When the head is tilted or the body position is changed with respect to gravity the displacement of the stones causes the hair cells to bend.

In humans

In humans, equilibrioception is mainly sensed by the detection of acceleration, which occurs in the vestibular system
Vestibular system
The vestibular system, which contributes to balance in most mammals and to the sense of spatial orientation, is the sensory system that provides the leading contribution about movement and sense of balance. Together with the cochlea, a part of the auditory system, it constitutes the labyrinth of...

. Other senses play roles as well, e.g. the visual system
Visual system
The visual system is the part of the central nervous system which enables organisms to process visual detail, as well as enabling several non-image forming photoresponse functions. It interprets information from visible light to build a representation of the surrounding world...

 and proprioception
Proprioception , from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement...

. The importance of visual input for balance is illustrated by its being harder to stand on one foot with eyes closed than with eyes open.

The sense of balance, usually, deteriorates in the process of aging of a person. However, it can be improved considerably with the help of special training.

Vestibular system

In the vestibular system equilibrioception is determined by the level of fluid
In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually deforms under an applied shear stress. Fluids are a subset of the phases of matter and include liquids, gases, plasmas and, to some extent, plastic solids....

 properly called endolymph
Endolymph is the fluid contained in the membranous labyrinth of the inner ear. It is also called Scarpa's fluid, after Antonio Scarpa.-Composition:...

 in the labyrinth - a complex set of tubing in the inner ear
The ear is the organ that detects sound. It not only receives sound, but also aids in balance and body position. The ear is part of the auditory system....



When the sense of balance is interrupted it causes dizziness, disorientation
Orientation (mental)
Orientation is a function of the mind involving awareness of three dimensions: time, place and person. Problems with orientation lead to disorientation, and can be due to various conditions, from delirium to intoxication...

 and nausea
Nausea , is a sensation of unease and discomfort in the upper stomach with an involuntary urge to vomit. It often, but not always, precedes vomiting...

. Balance can be upset by Ménière's disease
Ménière's disease
Ménière's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus and progressive hearing loss, usually in one ear. It is named after the French physician Prosper Ménière, who, in an article published...

, superior canal dehiscence syndrome, an inner ear infection, by a bad common cold
Common cold
The common cold is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory system, caused primarily by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. Common symptoms include a cough, sore throat, runny nose, and fever...

 affecting the head or a number of other medical conditions. It can also be temporarily disturbed by quick or prolonged acceleration, for example riding on a merry-go-round. See also vertigo
Vertigo (medical)
Vertigo is a type of dizziness, where there is a feeling of motion when one is stationary. The symptoms are due to a dysfunction of the vestibular system in the inner ear...

. Blows can also affect equilibrioreception, especially those to the side of the head or directly to the ear.

Most astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

s find that their sense of balance is impaired when in orbit because they are in a constant state of weightlessness
Weightlessness is the condition that exists for an object or person when they experience little or no acceleration except the acceleration that defines their inertial trajectory, or the trajectory of pure free-fall...

. This causes a form of motion sickness
Motion sickness
Motion sickness or kinetosis, also known as travel sickness, is a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system's sense of movement...

 called space adaptation syndrome
Space adaptation syndrome
Space adaptation syndrome or space sickness is a condition experienced by around half of space travelers during adaptation to weightlessness. It is related to motion sickness, as the vestibular system adapts to weightlessness.- Cause and remedy :...


In animals

Some animals have better equilibrioception than humans, for example a cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

 uses its inner ear
Inner ear
The inner ear is the innermost part of the vertebrate ear. In mammals, it consists of the bony labyrinth, a hollow cavity in the temporal bone of the skull with a system of passages comprising two main functional parts:...

 and tail to walk on a thin fence
A fence is a freestanding structure designed to restrict or prevent movement across a boundary. It is generally distinguished from a wall by the lightness of its construction: a wall is usually restricted to such barriers made from solid brick or concrete, blocking vision as well as passage .Fences...


Equilibrioception in many marine animals is done with an entirely different organ, the statocyst
The statocyst is a balance sensory receptor present in some aquatic invertebrates, including bivalves, cnidarians, echinoderms, cephalopods, and crustaceans. A similar structure is also found in Xenoturbella. The statocyst consists of a sac-like structure containing a mineralised mass and numerous...

, which detects the position of tiny calcareous stones to determine which way is "up".

In plants

Plants could be said to exhibit a form of equilibrioception, in that when rotated from their normal attitude the stems grow in the direction that is upward (away from gravity) while their roots grow downward (in the direction of gravity) this phenomenon is known as Gravitropism
Gravitropism is a turning or growth movement by a plant or fungus in response to gravity. Charles Darwin was one of the first to scientifically document that roots show positive gravitropism and stems show negative gravitropism. That is, roots grow in the direction of gravitational pull and stems...

 and it has been shown that for instance Poplar
Populus is a genus of 25–35 species of deciduous flowering plants in the family Salicaceae, native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. English names variously applied to different species include poplar , aspen, and cottonwood....

 stems can detect reorientation and inclination.

Training devices

  • balance ball
  • balance board
    Balance board
    A balance board is a device used for recreation, balance training, athletic training, brain development, therapy, musical training and other kinds of personal development....

  • balance bicycle
    Balance bicycle
    A balance bicycle, or run bike is a training bicycle that helps children learn balance and steering. It has no pedals, no crankset and chain, and no training wheels.-Designs:Balance bikes have been made out of both metal and wood...

  • BOSU
    A BOSU Balance Trainer, or BOSU ball as it is often called, is a fitness training device, invented in 1999 by David Weck, consisting of an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. It is also referred to as the "blue half-ball", because it looks like a stability ball cut in half...

  • slackline
  • tight rope

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.