The sense of balance is almost a hidden sense.
Our attention tends not to be drawn to it unless it is out of sync, ie. we become dizzy, lose our balance, suffer form Vertigo or become travel sick. Even having a glass or two of wine too many can throw our balance system out of kilter!
I have to say, I am totally fascinated with the balance system (otherwise known as the Vestibular System) and the primitive reflexes that help to develop it in the early days of baby development.
Coming from a biological background I just love the idea that nature provides what we require for development, such as the primitive and postural reflexes and the actual way the human body is designed.
That said, the balance system is the actual first sensory system to mature and is developed and trained through movement. As I always say “movement truly is the key to learning”.
So tell me more about this balance mechanism, I hear you say. well, it is located in the inner ear. Almost right inside the ear drum. It is made up of three semi-circular canals on the x, y and z planes.
These canals have tiny little hair like structures lining the inside of the canals and there is also a fluid the passes through the canals. As the head moves the fluid passes over the hair like structures and sends information back to the brain about where the body is in space. In addition to the canals there are 2 micro-structures that also help to detect where the head and the body are in relation to gravity.
So what’s the link to the primitive reflexes?
Many of the reflexes are a direct reaction to vestibular stimulation. And while the sense of touch is the first to react in the womb, it is the sense of balance that is first to mature. The pathway linking the vestibular system to the brain is in place by 12 weeks gestation. It is also the first tract to mature.
Why is it important?
The fact that it is the first system to mature is indication enough that it is important for survival and future development. But it is the chief receptor for the effects of gravity and considering that a baby moves from an area where there is no gravity (the womb) to a world governed by gravity it is the balance system that helps the baby to learn to function within and against the force of gravity which allows them to become confident and in control of their own body.
NOTE: Do NOT leave your child unattended in any position for any length of time. If at any stage you feel that your child is uncomfortable or disliking the movements, then cease immediately.