Standing upright, maintaining balance, and walking are all pretty natural processes to us. We don’t consciously think about balance during our daily activities.
But have you ever wondered how you manage to stand on one foot? Or perform any sports activity? Or how you don’t fall down every time you stumble? Today we’re learning what part of the brain controls balance.
What Controls Balance In The Brain?
As your body moves , your brain grooves.
—Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program
Maintaining balance is a very complex process in the brain. It’s performed by multiple parts of the brain and occurs as a result of the brain communicating with our environment.
The main part of the brain that control balance is the cerebellum.
But there are other parts of the brain that help out too, such as the brain stem which helps us develop healthy breathing practices.
The cerebellum or “little brain” is located in the back of your skull, above the amygdala (the part of the brain that controls emotions).
Besides controlling balance and posture, it’s also responsible for monitoring voluntary movement, eye movement, and speech.
What Part Of The Brain Controls Balance And Hearing?
The processing of sound happens in the temporal lobes which are a part of the cerebrum. The audio stimuli come through the ear and go directly into the primary auditory cortex located in the temporal lobes.
But how does the temporal lobe affect balance?
Have you ever heard a loud noise and reflexively found yourself moving away from the source of the noise?
That’s the temporal lobe at work. Your temporal lobe is directly connected to the cerebellum by neural pathways. This connection enables a quick reaction to loud noise.
Which Part Of The Brain Controls Balance And Posture?
We already mentioned that the cerebellum does not work alone. It controls equilibrium by combining sensory information from the outside world.
Those pieces of information come from the eye (visual), the ear (auditory) and muscles and joints (motor). The cerebellum sends information out to your body in order to stay balanced during movement. But that happens as a response to the information that comes in.
Consider standing on one foot. Your joints and muscles use receptors, called proprioceptors, to gather information about the spacial position of your body.
These receptors the send the information back to the cerebellum which adjusts your position by making you shift body weight, or even stretching your arms out to help maintain equilibrium.
Now, continue standing on one foot but close your eyes. It is much more difficult to stay in that position, isn’t it?
This is because you have limited the information coming to the cerebellum. It’s now unable to use visual information from the eyes and has lost a little of the spatial orientation.
Usually, we are not aware of these processes — they happen reflexively. But we often become aware of them when we exercise — especially exercise that involves a high degree of coordination.
For example, a ballerina doing a pirouette on one leg has to learn how to use surroundings in order to perform the movement without losing balance. And that’s no easy feat!
What Controls The Body’s Balance?
In addition to the cerebellum, two crucial structures in maintaining balance are the inner ear and the vestibular cranial nerves.
The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, enables you to be aware of the position of your head in relation to the floor. It’s responsible for helping you know that the object that you are looking at is not moving but that you have, for example, tilted your head.
Damage to any part of the brain related to balance can result in jerky, uncoordinated movements. Damage to any of these structures isn’t inherently life threatening, and movement is still possible. It simply requires a little more conscious attention than usual.
Are you skilled in any activity that requires good balance? Share it with us in the comments below!