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Unformatted text preview: The Vestibular Sense Function O ur other sensory systems provide information about ourselves or about the environment around us, but the Vestibular system is unique in providing a continuous flow of information about the ‘fit’ between the two, the person and the environment; it tells a person how they are interacting in the environment and it enables the individual to remain oriented in space and in time. This is the sense that tells us about the position of our heads in relation to the pull of gravity, it tells us which way is ‘up’, and it detects motion. As a consequence of this it monitors and directs muscular activity and body position to maintain secure and functional postures whatever we are doing, working very closely with the touch and proprioceptive senses. It also has very close links with the visual sense, in particular stabilizing the fixation point of the eyes when the head moves which enables us to maintain a stable visual image of the world as we move. Since the Vestibular system only provides information about the position and movement of the head it relies on well- integrated links with the senses of proprioception and vision to facilitate postural adjustments in the rest of the body. If, for any reason, the Vestibular system is not working then these other two senses (vision and proprioception) can, with great conscious effort, be made to compensate to some extent and provide a degree of postural control and security. Two writers give interesting broader perspectives on this sensory system that really emphasize the great extent of its contribution to all of our functioning: “In the final analysis, one may have a well-developed sensory map of the external world and a well-developed motor map of movement from one place to another, but if one does not know where they are with respect to that map, they are virtually incapable of using that spatial mapping information. And the Vestibular system appears to be the system that gives information about the individual’s location in the overall spatial map” (neurologist S.J. Cool in 1987). Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and the creator of Sensory Integration Theory and Therapy, is more concise and states simply that: “The Vestibular system is the unifying system. All other types of sensation are processed in reference to this basic Vestibular information. The activity in the Vestibular system provides a framework for the other aspects of our experiences.” Most importantly, Ayres declared that the Vestibular sense plays a key role in helping us to develop effective self-regulation of our arousal level, our ability to maintain a calm but alert state. So this is a sensory system that plays an extremely important role in enabling us to do almost everything that we do in our daily lives, and yet very few people know about it. In sensory terms, this is the big one....
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- Spring '11
- vestibular sense, DbI Review