Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): Glossary of Terms

  • Semicircular canals: These structures act like a gyroscope, with canals positioned in three dimensions – upward, downward, and horizontal. Together, the canals send signals to the brain about the rotation/positioning of the head (for example, when you bend over or spin around.)
  • Cupula: Detects the flow of fluid within the semicircular canals. The flow of fluid gives the body a sense of motion.
  • Utricle: An organ located in the inner ear that helps control balance. The utricle contains hair cells, which are covered with otoconia. The otoconia sway with gravity, sending signals to the brain about the position of the head and body (upright, tilted, etc.).
  • Otoconia: The tiny calcium crystal particles that become dislodged from within the utricle (where they can dissolve) and move into the semicircular canals (where they can’t dissolve).
  • Cochlea: The “snail-shell” sense organ of the inner ear that translates sound into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain.

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