Originally posted on September 15, 2016.
With thanks to Christopher Platt (NIDCD Director of Hearing and Balance programs), here’s a simple demonstration of our super-speedy vestibular system. As you have surely noticed, if you slip, your vestibular sensors automatically, in a microsecond, direct your skeletal response—well before you have consciously decided how to right yourself.
Our vestibular sense is even faster than our visual sense. Try this, suggests Platt: Hold one of your thumbs in front of your face, then move it rapidly right to left and back. Notice how your thumb blurs. (Your vision isn’t fast enough to track it.)
Now hold your thumb still and swivel your head from left to right. Voila! Your thumb stays in focus, because your vestibular system, which is monitoring your head position, speedily moves the eyes. Head moves right, eyes move left. Vision is fast, but the vestibular sense is faster.