Vestibular Function and Anatomy | PPT

January 31, 2013 | By | Reply More

Vestibular Function and Anatomy | PPT

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Vestibular Function and Anatomy

System of balance

Membranous and bony labyrinth embedded in petrous bone

5 distinct end organs

3 semicircular canals: superior, lateral, posterior

2 otolith organs: utricle and saccule

Semicircular canals sense angular acceleration

Otolithic organs (utricle and saccule) sense linear acceleration


3rd week of embryonic development

Otic placode formed from neuroectoderm and ectoderm

Otocyst or otic vesicle 4th week


Endolymphatic duct forms

Utricular chamber becomes utricle/semicircular canals

Saccular chamber becomes saccule/cochlea

Separation of saccule and cochlea-ductus reuniens


Week 3 sensory epithelia develop from ectoderm

3 cristae, 2 maculae

Vestibulocochlear ganglion starts as one then spits into superior and inferior divisions

Superior division: Superior/lateral canals, utricle

Inferior division: saccule, posterior canal (via singular nerve)

Semicircular canals are orthogonal to each other

Lateral canal inclined to 30 degrees

Superior/postereor canals 45 degrees off of sagittal plane

Utricle is in horizontal plane

Saccule is in vertical plane


There are five openings into area of utricle

Saccule in spherical recess

Utricle in elliptical recess

45% from AICA

24% superior cerebellar artery

16% basilar

Two divisions: anterior vestibular and common cochlear artery


Superior vestibular nerve: superior canal, lateral canal, utricle

Inferior vestibular nerve: posterior canal and saccule

Membranous labyrinth is surrounded by perilymph

Endolymph fills the vestibular end organs along with the cochlea



Similar to extracellular fluid

K+=10mEQ, Na+=140mEq/L

Unclear whether this is ultrafiltrate of CSF or blood

Drains via venules and middle ear mucosa



Similar to intracellular fluid

K+=144mEq/L,  Na+=5mEq/L

Produced by marginal cells in stria vascularis from perilymph at the cochlea and from dark cells in the cristae and maculae

Absorbed in endolymphatic sac which connected by endolymphatic, utricular and saccular ducts



Sensory structures

Ampulla of the semicircular canals

Dilated end of canal

Contains sensory neuroepithelium, cupula, supporting cells



Cupula is gelatinous mass extending across at right angle

Extends completely across, not responsive to gravity

Crista ampullaris is made up of sensory hair cells and supporting cells

Sensory cells are either Type I or Type II

Type I cells are flask shaped and have chalice shaped calyx ending

One chalice may synapse with 2-4 Type I cells

Type II cells – cylinder shaped, multiple efferent and afferent boutons


Kinocilium is located on one end of cell giving each cell a polarity

Has 9+2 arrangement of microtubule doublets

Lacks inner dynein arms, and central portion of microtubules not present near ends – may mean they are immobile or weakly mobile


Each afferent neuron has a baseline firing rate

Deflection of stereocilia toward kinocilium results in an increase in the firing rate of the afferent neuron

Deflection away causes a decrease in the firing rate

kinocilia are located closest to utricle in lateral canals and are on canalicular side in other canals

Ampullopetal flow (toward the ampulla) excitatory in lateral canals, inhibitory in superior/posterior canals

Ampullofugal flow (away from the ampulla) has opposite effect

Semicircular canals are paired

Horizontal canals

Right superior/left posterior

Left superior/right posterior

Allow redundant reception of movement

Explains compensation after unilateral vestibular loss

Otolithic organs

Utricle and saccule sense linear acceleration

Cilia from hair cells are embedded in gelatinous layer

Otoliths or otoconia are on upper surface

Calcium carbonate or calcite


Specific gravity of otolithic membrane is 2.71-2.94

Central region of otolithic membrane is called the striola

Saccule has hair cells oriented away from the striola

Utricle has hair cells oriented towards the striola

Striola is curved so otolithic organs are sensitive to linear motion in multiple trajectories

Central connections

Scarpa’s ganglion is in the internal auditory canal

Contains bipolar ganglion cells of first order neurons

Superior and inferior divisions form common bundle which enters brainstem

No primary vestibular afferents cross the midline

Afferent fibers terminate in the vestibular nuclei in floor of fourth ventricle

Superior vestibular nucleus

Lateral vestibular nucleus

Medial vestibular nucleus

Descending vestibular nucleus


Vestibular nuclei project to


Extraocular nuclei

Spinal cord

Contralateral vestibular nuclei

Senses and controls motion

Information is combined with that from visual system and proprioceptive system

Maintains balance and compensates for effects of head motion

Vestibulo-ocular reflex

Membranous labyrinth moves with head motion

Endolymph does not causing relative motion

Cupula on right canal deflected towards utricle causing increase in firing rate, left deflects away causing a decrease in firing rate.

Reflex causes movement of eyes to the left with saccades to right

Stabilizes visual image

If acceleration stops, and spin to right is at constant velocity, sensation of motion stops after 14-20 seconds as does nystagmus

Cupula only takes 8-10 seconds to return to equilibrium position

Vestibular integrator is the term for the prolongation and is mediated by the vestibular nuclei and cerebellum

Vestibulospinal Reflex

Senses head movement and head relative to gravity

Projects to antigravity muscles via 3 major pathways:

Lateral vestibulospinal tract

Medial vestibulospinal tract

Reticulospinal tract

How do calorics work?

Patient is lying down with horizontal canals oriented vertically (ampulla up)

Cold water irrigation causes endolymph in lateral portion to become dense and fall causing deflection of cupula away from utricle with a decrease in the firing rate

This causes nystagmus with fast phase (beat) away from the stimulus

With warm water irrigation column of endolymph becomes less dense, rises and causes deflection of cupula toward the utricle

Results in increase firing rate and nystagmus which beats towards the stimulation

COWS (cold opposite, warm same)




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