Arun H. S. Kumar
Editor in Chief, Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
The vestibular system is a very unique sensory system, which integrates with several other sensory and motor pathways to precisely regulate body movement and balance. This uniqueness is achieved through the vestibular nuclei which are anatomically and functionally organized into four bilateral subnuclei located in the brainstem region. Inputs into these nuclei are provided by the vestibular organ bilaterally located in the inner ear through the vestibular nerve component of the eighth cranial nerve. The vestibular organ is comprised fluid-filled semicircular canals and two otolith organs (utricle and saccule). The role of vestibular organ in regulating body movement and balance is well known, and techniques to stimulate the vestibular organs as a clinical intervention to correct body movement and balance disorders are actively researched. Several neural networks project from the vestibular nuclei to different regions of the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and spinal cord, which in recent years have been reported to have a higher degree of neuroplasticity. These wider vestibular system networks with significant neuroplasticity in recent years are linked with several functional attributes beyond the classical role of vestibular system in regulating body movement and balance. One such functional attribute has been in the area of stress management. While the molecular pathways linking vestibular stimulation and its potential in stress management await research-based evidence, the functional outcomes are well evident and reported by several studies. It is likely that the vestibular system networks do relay through several other autonomic function regulatory centers, including the reticular activating system, thalamus, hypothalamus, and/or the limbic system in influencing the body stress status. It will be interesting to understand these complex molecular pathways to refine the adaptability of vestibular stimulation approach in the clinical management of diseases associated with stress. Highlighting these concepts is two articles published in this issue. One of the articles reviews the pathways, by which stimulating vestibular system can regulate the limbic system networks. While the other article describes the potential of vestibular stimulation as an effective nonpharmacological approach in management of premenstrual syndrome. Read more…