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Physiology of balance

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

  • balance is mediated by the vestibular nuclei in the brain stem
  • the labyrinth (a part of the inner ear), is a major organ of our vestibular (balance) system
  • the three semi-circular canals of the labyrinth is associated with sensing rotary motion (1)
  • the brain senses the direction and speed of rotation of the head by the movement of fluid in the semi-circular canals (1)
  • balance is maintained by the interactions between the labyrinth and other systems in the body, such as the visual and skeletal systems (1)
  • the main inputs into the balance system are the:
    • vestibular labyrinths
    • visual system (eyes)
    • somatosensory system, especially proprioception
  • the main outputs from the vestibular nuclei are:
    • vestibulo-ocular:
      • permitting reflex eye movements related to posture
    • vestibulo-spinal which supply:
      • anti-gravity muscles in the lower limbs
      • reflex arcs which control gait


  1. Information from the National Institutes of Health. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

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