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In this lesson, you’ll learn the definition, importance, and function of the vestibular sense in psychology, as well as problems with where it comes from: the vestibular system.

What is the Vestibular Sense in Psychology?

There is a strong connection between the ear and our sense of balance. Our vestibular sense, also known as the labyrinthine sense, is an elaborate sense that is involved in body position and movement of the head. It comes from the vestibular system in our inner ear and is activated when there is a change in gravity or when our head moves.

We would feel very dizzy without our vestibular sense. It helps us focus and feel centered.We have our vestibular sense to thank when we can keep our bodies upright when jumping, or when we stand from a seated position, or sit from a standing position. It’s responsible for our ability to focus on an object, like a person’s eyes, even when our head nods up and down in agreement or shakes back and forth in disagreement.More specifically, the vestibular sense in psychology has special significance to child development and children’s ability to maintain balance when learning how to walk, keep their trunk sturdy when learning how to sit up, and develop various visual, fine and gross motor skills.

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It also has importance with regard to ability to focus and the attention span.

Examples of Vestibular Sense in Psychology

Child development is a fascinating thing. It is wondrous to see babies who did not have particular motor skills the day before all of a sudden be able to hold their head up, turn at the sound of a noise, sit up on their own and walk in a straight line, even if it’s wobbly at first.The vestibular sense in psychology and child development helps kids with:

  1. Gross motor skills: crawling, walking, running, jumping, hitting a ball with a bat, etc.
  2. Fine motor skills: holding objects, turning pages of a book, drawing, etc.

  3. Visual spatial motor skills: following moving objects, etc.

The vestibular sense helps adults with all of the above as well, of course. It’s what helps gymnasts do somersaults and remain balanced and straight while doing them. Have you ever tried to roll down a hill while in a barrel? The vestibular sense would help you remain oriented through that joy ride.

Interested in carnival rides? The vestibular sense makes riding a merry-go-round or roller coaster possible. It keeps you centered when your body is spinning. The spinning tea cup rides at a carnival or Disney is really testing your vestibular sense’s limits. You will likely be dizzy after the ride, but it’s your vestibular sense that will reorient you back to normal soon afterwards.

Problems

Sometimes an adult can feel unusually dizzy or experience vertigo, a sense of spinning even when you haven’t moved. That person can visit a doctor’s office to ascertain the cause, but when a child feels these things, they might not be able to verbalize what they are experiencing.

The following are a few signs that there may be a vestibular dysfunction. If the child:- Skips words when reading;- Shows developmental delays in important motor skills like riding a bicycle, swimming, hopping up and down or even climbing a flight of stairs, because you need to alternate feet in doing this;- Suffers from frequent headaches due to head pressure and dizziness;- Struggles with navigating through the darkness.Vestibular problems have implications in psychology because delays can cause children to suffer from self-esteem issues, be unable to properly focus in school, or have trouble participating in social activities like playing soccer or taking a bike ride.Treatment of vestibular disorders may involve surgery but it is more commonly remedied with vestibular rehabilitation therapy, which is a form of physical therapy that involves exercises to train the brain and eyes to coordinate with the vestibular system.

There are some vestibular disorders that are caused or exacerbated by diet and can be remedied, therefore, by changes that diet.

Lesson Summary

Our vestibular sense comes from the vestibular system and is involved in body position and movement of the head. It helps us feel focused and centered when we stand, twirl, spin, ride a bike, or climb a flight of stairs.The vestibular sense in psychology has specific implications for development in children because when there is a vestibular problem, it can cause developmental delays in significant motor skills.

These delays can contribute to lower attention span, low self-esteem or difficulties engaging in social activities like sports. Treatment of vestibular disorders is usually through a physical therapy process called vestibular rehabilitation therapy that trains the brain to recognize information from the vestibular system.

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