Balance and the Inner ear.

There was a most interesting segment about balance shown recently on the ABC’s - ‘Catalyst’ - a weekly TV program dealing with science and medicine. The presenter was showing old film from around 2 years ago and more recent clips from over the past 6 months.

The subject was motor neuron disease and the disastrous effects it has on the body’s ability to move in any coordinated manner. Similar difficulties are very often suffered by people with Parkinson’s Disease. A radical approach towards treating the effects of Parkinson’s was developed some years ago which entailed surgeons drilling through the top of the patient’s skull and inserting an extremely fine wire into that part of the brain which controls motor coordination. By attaching the wire to an electrical controller similar to a pacemaker electrical
signals regularly stimulated this part of the brain so enabling the sufferer to be virtually free of the unfortunate effects. As a result they found they could walk and move in a normal manner.

Some several decades ago Neuroanatomist D.L. Clark from Stanford University engaged in research into the effects of movement (specifically vestibular stimulation) on the development of balance and motor skills in children.Working both with normal children and others affected either by Down’s Syndrome or cerebral palsy he split the whole group at random giving the first group of children one hour a day’s regular stimulation over a period of three months. The second group acted as a control. While this stimulation was not electrical but physical the results were quite similar.

Tests on balance and motor skill co-ordination were carried out at the beginning and then on completion of the trial. Scores of the children subject to stimulation increased by more than 20% compared to the control group. What was even more gratifying, however, was the discovery that the rate of improvement among the handicapped children was almost equal to that of the normal children. (1)

Regular stimulation of the vestibular apparatus also assists in maintaining alertness , as well as influencing certain learning centres of the brain. Regular back and forth movement such as rocking in a rocking chair has the effect of actually increasing our level of alertness. This was dramatically illustrated back in 1989 when a woman in England stayed awake eight days and seven hours by rocking in a rocking chair to claim a record in the Guiness Book of World Records ( i.e. stimulating her “alerting mechanism”).

The gentle back and forth movement of your body which you initiate when using a rocking chair, or which occurs naturally when using a chair such as the Kneelsit, stimulates the tiny cilia lining the tubes of your vestibular system (balance mechanism of the inner ear) so helping to keep you alert. When a person is falling asleep in a chair and leans too far in one direction their “alerting mechanism” will tend to jerk them awake.

One of the major functions of the vestibular system is “to promote general alertness and attention as well as assist in determining how sensitive one will be to any given stimulus.”

(Ayres, 1972, p.41).Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders. Los Angles: Western Psychological Services.

One Response to “Balance and the Inner ear.”

  1. Online and Offline Promotion Says:

    Online and Offline Promotion

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting

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