Sense of Balance

Suppose someone rapidly gained or lost weight… like 150 to 200 lbs (33% gain) or vice versa… regardless of the mechanism (radical diet, liposuction). How would that affect their short-term sense of balance? Would riding a bike or even walking become suddenly more dangerous? How long would it take to re-equilibrate?

Yes, of course there are numerous variables to consider–but, in general, what would happen?

Why, he’s no fun. he fell right over.

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

Short term sense of balance?

I don’t think they’re sense of balance would be effected. unless they gained enough weight to affect gravity.

We live in an age that reads to much to be wise, and thinks too much to be beautiful–Oscar Wilde

I think the best example of this would be backpacking where you might gain/lose 30-40 pounds within seconds. I don’t recall it taking more than a few minutes to become accustomed to the weight change, especially when removing the weight.


don’t think it would affect balance so much, might affect coordinationsome though and the sense of ‘self’ just exactly where is my foot or knee.You planning on going up or down, pan? Just don’t fall in my direction.

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

The topic got me to thinking: why isn’t the sense of balance listed among the traditional senses?

I think height has more of an effect on sense of balance than weight does. My center of gravity is so high that it keeps me from being the most nimble person in the world.

I also imagin it is part of the reason that kids with growth spurts have a bit of trouble adjusting to their newfound height.

Well, shut my mouth. It’s also illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling.

I agree with Mr. John. The loss of weight would be akin to a teenager having a growth spurt. The balance would still be there, but the coordination would be off for awhile. You would just fall down alot. :slight_smile:

The internal sense of where all your body parts are in relation to each other is called . . .


I picked that term up out of a book called The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, written by the same doctor that inspired the movie Awakenings. The book discusses several of the more unusual neurological disorders, including one woman who completely lost her sense of proprioception.

Will work for sig line.

Your sense of balance would not be affected, however your ability to balance yourself might be, due to an inability to adjust adequately. The sense of balance is a function of fluid movements in the inner ear that tweak little hairs in the semicircular canals. Why is it not listed as a separate sense? Because it’s really just a specialized example of the sense of touch…

I was “inspired” to post this query because of the backpacking example mentioned by Oblio. This past weekend I was doing some field work which involves hiking, rock scrambling, and collecting rocks (causing my sudden “weight gain”). While negotiating some boulders and heavily ladden with rocks on my back (in a good pack with an internal frame and hip belt), I was having a more than average difficult time balancing–or perhaps coordinating–myself than usual.

Of course, now that I think about it, it coulda been the excess beer and late hours from the night before that were screwing with me… hmm…

The closest I’ve come to this is losing 15-20 pounds in a few minutes after the births of my two children. I don’t remember feeling particularly strange when I first walked afterward.

OTOH, being pregnant can mess with your balance because of the strange center of gravity. I also never got used to where my tummy was–I was always bumping it into counters or trying to squeeze through gaps that were too narrow.

No,no, the sense of balance is done three ways: 1. ears 2. eyes 3. muscles
Got my number one cut, so I use number two & three.

Weight effects only number 3.

I’m dangerously close to posting “has any species evolved gyroscopes?” Time to take a break and go to the Suns game.

Damn, I completely forgot about hoop snakes.

That argument could be raised against listing the sense of hearing as well. The proprioceptive sensing system also isn’t listed in the famous five.

Ray (And my sense of humor? That could be a little unbalanced.)

‘Sense’ has many defintions. Perception perceptors, perhaps, might qualify, & thus, balance is not:
1sense "sen(t)s\ noun [ME, fr. MF or L; MF sens sensation, feeling, mechanism of perception, meaning, fr. L sensus, fr. sentire to perceive, feel; perh. akin to OHG sinnan to go, strive, OE sith journey — more at send] (14c)
1 : a meaning conveyed or intended : import, signification; esp : one of a set of meanings a word or phrase may bear esp. as segregated in a dictionary entry
2 a : the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs
b : a specialized animal function or mechanism (as sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch) basically involving a stimulus and a sense organ
c : the sensory mechanisms constituting a unit distinct from other functions (as movement or thought)
3 : conscious awareness or rationality — usu. used in pl. <finally came to his senses>
4 a : a particular sensation or kind or quality of sensation <a good sense of balance>
b : a definite but often vague awareness or impression <felt a sense of insecurity> <a sense of danger>
c : a motivating awareness <a sense of shame>
d : a discerning awareness and appreciation <her sense of humor>
5 : consensus <the sense of the meeting>
6 a : capacity for effective application of the powers of the mind as a basis for action or response : intelligence
b : sound mental capacity and understanding typically marked by shrewdness and practicality; also : agreement with or satisfaction of such power <this decision makes sense>
7 : one of two opposite directions esp. of motion (as of a point, line, or surface)

sense, common sense, judgment, wisdom mean ability to reach intelligent conclusions. sense implies a reliable ability to judge and decide with soundness, prudence, and intelligence <a choice showing good sense>. common sense suggests an average degree of such ability without sophistication or special knowledge <common sense tells me it’s wrong>. judgment implies sense tempered and refined by experience, training, and maturity <they relied on her judgment for guidance>. wisdom implies sense and judgment far above average <a leader of rare wisdom>.

©1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.

Handy - I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. “Sense of Balance” is the ability to tell which way is up/down and also how our body is moving. This is accomplished by the inner cochlea as Joey Blades mentioned, although it’s not about touch at all. It’s augmented by vision and muscle sense. If you want to experience just how this works, take the ride at an amusement park that is a big barrel where you stand against a wall & the barrel spins you around. As the centrifugal force overrides gravity, your perception of up and down changes until you perceive that you are almost laying flat against the wall and the other side of the barrel is above you. OTOH, in the funny house where the house is tilted madly, you will still know what is up & down, although it doesn’t jibe with what you are seeing.

As to why we don’t consider it a sense - perhaps because, unlike the other senses, we are not really aware of it unless it is not working; also other senses provide a great variety of input, whereas balance is fairly uncomplicated.

handy - why do you think hearing is involved in balance?

Ok, it’s not the inner cochlea, its the semicircular canals:

sounds like a short street in Venice

zyada, I said ears not hearing. Once got an operation on my inner ears which didn’t go as planned. Thus I mostly balance with my eyes & muscles. Therefore, at night, in the blackness, I often stumble around quite a bit. sigh.