What is Equilibrioception?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Commonly referred to as the sense of balance, equilibrioception is one of the key physiological senses in both animals and humans. Necessary for movement as well as for remaining upright, the process of equilibrioception takes place in the vestibular system. When some factor impacts the function of the system, the sense of balance is undermined and mobility becomes extremely difficult to achieve.

Commonly referred to as the sense of balance, equilibrioception is one of the key physiological senses in both animals and humans.
Commonly referred to as the sense of balance, equilibrioception is one of the key physiological senses in both animals and humans.

One of the key components of the vestibular system is the inner ear. It is here that fluid known as endolymph is housed in the labyrinth. The movement of the endolymph within the labyrinth helps to maintain proper balance and allows humans to be able to walk upright, as well as to stand in one position for longer periods of time. When the function of the inner ear is compromised in some manner, the individual begins to experience periods where standing or walking are less comfortable. In some cases, these activities may become impossible.

In extreme cases of equilibrioception, a person may be bedridden.
In extreme cases of equilibrioception, a person may be bedridden.

When equilibrioception is negatively impacted by illness or some other factor, several symptoms may emerge. Often, the individual may experience periods of dizziness when attempting to stand or walk. In extreme cases, the individual may be bedridden and unable to even sit up in bed. Nausea is also a common symptom associated with balancing problems. The degree of nausea experience ranges from mild discomfort to a strong sense of being about to regurgitate.

Disorientation may also be a sign of some sort of issue with equilibrioception. The individual may experience a sense of vertigo, not being able to determine which way is up or down. When coupled with nausea, the disorientation can quickly lead to a sense of panic and cause the sufferer to reach a state where the body and mind take steps to shut down by fainting.

Just about everyone experiences some problem with equilibrioception at some point in time. The sense of balance may be temporarily impacted by illnesses such as the common cold. As the condition weakens and recovery begins, equilibrioception usually returns to normal. For people with a particularly sensitive balance, even activities such as riding on a merry-go-round may have an adverse effect on equilibrioception.

While most occurrences of problems with equilibrioception are short lived, any continuing or recurring problems with balance should be reported to a physician immediately. Often, the cause can be quickly identified and effective treatment administered that will restore the sense of balance in a very short period of time.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

anon21782

I heard in a class that proprioception originates in the middle ear. This is not correct.... right? Proprioception is in the muscles.... balance is in the ear. Please clarify.

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