THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM
Your average thrill-seekers probably get a kick out of roller coasters, with endless loops, whirling turns and lightning speed-acceleration. While your sense of what’s up and what’s down may be temporarily out of whack, things settle pretty quickly once the ride is over. This is thanks to your brain’s vestibular system.
Within the inner ear are two groups of structures that make up the vestibular system: the otolithic organs and the semicircular canals. The otolithic organs allow your body to feel when you are moving in a straight line, such as in a moving car, and sense the head’s position with respect to the force of gravity, like when you get out of bed. The semicircular canals keep track of the position of your head while it moves.
Altogether, the vestibular system is what provides us with a sense of balance. It helps us to keep from falling when hiking up a slope and allows our eyes to follow a butterfly as it flutters through the air.
Furthermore, the vestibular system helps keep the nervous system from falling apart. Every sensation and movement – speech, visual input, learning about the external environment and so on – is dependent on the proper function of the vestibular system. Without it, the processing of information would become rather difficult.