Q:

How does the brain's balance center work?

A:

Quick Answer

The balance system in the brain, also known as the vestibular system, uses signals from the eyes, muscles, joints and the inner ear, says the Vestibular Disorders Association. These signals are gathered and integrated in the brain stem to control balance.

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Full Answer

When light hits the rods and cones of the eyes, the brain receives signals about where the person is relative to things in the environment. Sensory receptors in the skin, muscles and joints help the brain to know the direction a person is facing and how he is standing relative to the ground. In each ear, the utricle and saccule identify the position of the body vertically, while the semicircular canals feel pressure when the head rotates a certain way. These organs in the inner ear, also known as vestibular organs, send information about motion, equilibrium and spatial position to the brain, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association.

The brain stem collects all these signals from the various parts of the body and integrates them with information in the cerebellum and cerebral cortex. The cerebellum stores information on automatic motions, while the cerebral cortex stores information already learned. After integration, the brain sends signals to the motion controlling muscles, located in the eyes, head, neck and legs, to maintain balance.

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