Vestibular nerve

The vestibular nerve is one of the two branches of the vestibulocochlear nerve (the cochlear nerve being the other). In humans the vestibular nerve transmits sensory information transmitted by vestibular hair cells located in the two otolith organs (the utricle and the saccule) and the three semicircular canals via the vestibular ganglion. Information from the otolith organs reflects gravity and linear accelerations of the head. Information from the semicircular canals reflects rotational movement of the head. Both are necessary for the sensation of body position and gaze stability in relation to a moving environment.

Vestibular nerve
Inner ear illustration showing semicircular canal, hair cells, ampulla, cupula, vestibular nerve, & fluid
Terminal nuclei of the vestibular nerve, with their upper connections. (Schematic.)
  1. Cochlear nerve, with its two nuclei
  2. Accessory nucleus
  3. Tuberculum acusticum
  4. Vestibular nerve
  5. Internal nucleus
  6. Nucleus of Deiters
  7. Nucleus of Bechterew
  8. Inferior or descending root of acoustic
  9. Ascending cerebellar fibers
  10. Fibers going to raphé
  11. Fibers taking an oblique course
  12. Lemniscus
  13. Inferior sensory root of trigeminal
  14. Cerebrospinal fasciculus
  15. Raphé
  16. Fourth ventricle
  17. Inferior peduncle. Origin of striæ medullares.
FromVestibulocochlear nerve
LatinNervus vestibularis
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy

Axons of the vestibular nerve synapse in the vestibular nucleus are found on the lateral floor and wall of the fourth ventricle in the pons and medulla.

It arises from bipolar cells in the vestibular ganglion, ganglion of Scarpa, which is situated in the upper part of the outer end of the internal auditory meatus.

Structure The peripheral fibers divide into three branches (some sources list two):[1]


The primary role of the vestibular nerve is to transform vestibular information (related to balance) into an egocentric frame of reference based on the position of the head in relation to the body.[2] The vestibular nerve dynamically updates the frame of reference of motor movement based on the orientation of the head in relation to the body. As an example, when standing upright and facing forward, if you wished to tilt your head to the right you would need to perform a slight leftward motor movement (shifting more of your weight to your left side) to maintain balance. While the head is still in motion, the response magnitude of alteration to motor coordinates is significantly reduced when compared to when the head is fixated in one position.[2]

Clinical significance


Due to its role in transforming motor coordinates, the vestibular nerve implicitly plays a role in maintaining stable blood pressure during movement, maintaining balance control, spatial memory and spatial navigation.[3] The most common causes of damage to the vestibular nerve are exposure to ototoxic antibiotics, Ménière's disease, encephalitis and some rare autoimmune disorders.[3] Typically, patients with a damaged nerve suffer from acute attacks of vertigo accompanied by nausea/vomiting, inability to maintain posture and horizontal nystagmus.[4]


Rapid compensation to damage of the vestibular nerve occurs within seven to ten days of receiving the damage. A small percentage of patients with damage to the vestibular nerve experience recurrent symptoms.[4] These patients have not been able to undergo vestibular compensation and are left with long-term attacks of vertigo. By administering betahistine to the damaged nerve over a long period of time, the process of vestibular compensation can be accelerated to alleviate symptoms. Patients can also learn strategies to recover their balance through physical therapy.[5]

See also

Additional images


This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 906 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

  1. Vestibular System Anatomy at eMedicine
  2. Osler, Callum J.; Reynolds, Raymond F. (2012). "Dynamic transformation of vestibular signals for orientation". Experimental Brain Research. 223 (2): 189–97. doi:10.1007/s00221-012-3250-1. PMID 22990288.
  3. McCall, Andrew A.; Yates, Bill J. (2011). "Compensation Following Bilateral Vestibular Damage". Frontiers in Neurology. 2: 88. doi:10.3389/fneur.2011.00088. PMC 3246292. PMID 22207864.
  4. Fundakowski, C. E.; Anderson, J.; Angeli, S. (2012). "Cross-Sectional Vestibular Nerve Analysis in Vestibular Neuritis". Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology. 121 (7): 466–70. doi:10.1177/000348941212100707. PMID 22844866.
  5. Georgescu, M; Stoian, S; Mogoantă, C. A.; Ciubotaru, G. V. (2012). "Vestibulary rehabilitation—election treatment method for compensating vestibular impairment" (PDF). Romanian Journal of Morphology and Embryology. 53 (3): 651–6. PMID 22990562.
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