A  A  A   Print
Why Ballet Dancers Can Spin Without Getting Dizzy

Why Ballet Dancers Can Spin Without Getting Dizzy

SUNDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Ballet spins are breathtaking to watch but hard to do, and a new study suggests that years of training help dancers' brains adapt so they can avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes.

The researchers concluded that dancers are able to suppress signals from the balance organs in the inner ear, and suggested that their findings could help improve treatment for people with chronic dizziness, which affects about 25 percent of people at some point in their lives.

The study included 29 female ballet dancers and 20 female rowers who were about the same age and had similar fitness levels. The participants were spun around in a chair in a dark room. The dancers experienced lower levels of dizziness than the rowers, according to the study published online Sept. 26 in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Brain scans revealed differences between the dancers and rowers in two parts of the brain: the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for the perception of dizziness, and an area in the cerebellum where sensory input from the vestibular organs in the inner ear is processed. The vestibular system includes hair cells resting in fluid that detect sound and head movement.

The area in the cerebellum was smaller in dancers, scans showed. This may be because dancers would be better off not using their vestibular systems, relying instead on highly coordinated pre-programmed movements, said study author Dr. Barry Seemungal, of Imperial College London, in England.

"It's not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance. Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input. Consequently, the signal going to the brain areas responsible for perception of dizziness in the cerebral cortex is reduced, making dancers resistant to feeling dizzy. If we can target that same brain area or monitor it in patients with chronic dizziness, we can begin to understand how to treat them better," Seemungal said in a college news release.

The researchers also found that the rowers' perception of spinning closely matched the eye reflexes triggered by vestibular signals, but this was not seen in the dancers. The findings may prove important for how doctors test patients with chronic dizziness.

"This shows that the sensation of spinning is separate from the reflexes that make your eyes move back and forth," Seemungal said. "In many clinics, it's common to only measure the reflexes, meaning that when these tests come back normal the patient is told that there is nothing wrong. But that's only half the story. You need to look at tests that assess both reflex and sensation."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about balance disorders.

SOURCE: Imperial College London, news release, Sept. 27, 2013

 

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.