The Vestibular System: Basic Biophysical and Physiological Mechanisms

  • Manning J. Correia
  • Fred E. GuedryJr.


The vestibular sense organs behave analogously to an inertial guidance system. They respond to angular and linear accelerations of the head. The linear acceleration to which they respond may result from translational head motion or change in orientation of the head relative to gravity. Like certain proprioceptors and unlike certain exteroceptors, the vestibular sense organs not only detect energies in the environment but also provide feedback to the organism concerning the current state of motion and orientation of the head (and whole body) relative to the Earth’s or some other force field. Skillful control of whole body movement usually involves integration of vestibular information with that supplied by other senses to produce appropriate, smooth, and coordinated motor responses. The extent of this integration is reflected by the neural pathways which exist between the vestibular sensory end organs and structures such as the cerebellum, the extraocular muscles, and the flexor and extensor muscles of the neck, torso, and limbs. This association is illustrated in general in Fig. 1.


Hair Cell Semicircular Canal Vestibular Nucleus Vestibular System Linear Acceleration 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manning J. Correia
    • 1
  • Fred E. GuedryJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.Departments of Otolaryngology, Physiology, and BiophysicsUniversity of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.Naval Aerospace Medical Research LaboratoryNaval Air StationPensacolaUSA

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