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 going to explore what part of the brain controls balance.
What Controls Balance in the Brain?
The main part of the brain that controls balance is the cerebellum. The cerebellum (also known as your “little brain“) is located at the back of your skull, above the amygdala (part of the brain that controls emotions). Besides controlling balance and posture, it’s also responsible for monitoring voluntary movement, eye movement, and speech control.
But there are other parts of the brain that help out too, such as the brain stem which mainly is responsible for breathing as well as balance.
Maintaining balance is a very complex process that is happening 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 part of the brain controlling: 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.
The Part of the Brain Controlling: Balance and Posture?
As we mentioned earlier, the cerebellum does not work alone. It controls your equilibrium by combining sensory information from the outside world.
Those pieces of information come from the eyes (visual), ears (auditory), and your body’s muscles and joints (motor). After the information is sent to the cerebellum, it processes it and relays the information back to your body instructing it on how to stay balanced during a specific movement.
For example, 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 then send the information back to the cerebellum adjusting your position by making you shift body weight, or even stretching your arms out to help maintain your balance.
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.
Take the example of a ballerina doing a pirouette on one leg. She has to learn how to use her 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.
Located in the inner ear, the vestibular system provides your brain with the necessary information for motion, head position, and spatial orientation.
It also plays a role in your motor functions that are involved in keeping your balance, stabilizing your head and body during movement, and also helps maintain your posture.
The vestibular system is absolutely essential for your body’s equilibrium, thus making it a vital part aiding you in balance.
Damage to any part of the brain related to balance isn’t inherently life-threatening, however, it can result in jerky and uncoordinated movements if the damage is severe.