The Importance of Vestibular Stimulation in Infants

One study offers particularly provocative evidence of the benefits of vestibular stimulation. These researchers exposed babies, who ranged in age from three to thirteen months, to sixteen sessions of chair spinning: Four times a week for four weeks, the infants were seated on a researcher's lap and spun around ten times in a swivel chair, each spin followed by an abrupt stop. To maximize stimulation of each of the three semicircular canals, the spinning included one or two rotations in each direction with the babies held in each of three positions: sitting, with the head tilted forward about 30 degrees. and side-lying on both left and right sides. Not surprisingly, the babies loved this treatment. They usually babbled or laughed during the rotation and became fussy during the thirty-second rest period between spins. In addition to this "trained" group, there were two groups of control infants, one that received no treatment, and one that came in for the same sixteen sessions but only sat on the researcher's lap in the swivel chair; they did not get to spin.

The results were striking. Compared with both control groups, the babies who were spun showed more advanced development of both their reflexes and their motor skills. The difference was particularly marked for motor skills like sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. In fact, the study included a set of three-month-old fraternal twins, of whom one received the training and the other did not. By the end of the study, when they were four months old. the twin who had experienced the vestibular stimulation had mastered head control and could even sit independently, while the unstimulated twin had only just begun to hold his head up.


Vestibular stimulation can have a profound impact on a baby's overall behavioral state. Young babies tend to go through periods when their behavior is best described as "disorganized"—they flail their limbs, tense up their hands and face, and cry in an insistent, high-pitched way. (Toddlers and preschoolers have similar periods of disorganization, otherwise known as tantrums, but they are fortunately far less frequent.) Parents will do just holds him over her shoulder, and gently jiggles him, he soon becomes "organized" again; his crying stops, his body relaxes, and for a brief time, he is highly alert—looking intently at the lamp behind Anna's back, then at the bright picture on the wall, and finally, when she moves him to a cradling through vestibular stimulation show greater visual alertness than babies comforted through vestibular stimulation show greater visual alertness than babies comforted in other ways. It's during these periods of quiet alertness that babies do their best learning, when they can most effectively absorb information about the world around them.

Continued vestibular stimulation has a very different effect: It decreases a baby's level of arousal. After Anna carries him around for a while, Timothy gets sleepy again and eventually dozes off. This, too, is beneficial to his maturing brain, which does a lot of important growing during the sleeping hours.


Giving babies four "spin" sessions in a chair improved their reflexes and motor skills. Also, jiggling and rocking babies sorts out their discombobulation and allows them to focus and learn for a period of time.

Folksonomies: parenting child rearing child care infant development

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 What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Eliot , Lise (2000-10-03), What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, Bantam, Retrieved on 2011-07-18
Folksonomies: parenting babies development infants physiology


01 JAN 2010

 Baby Care Memes

A collection of memes to help me keep track of what behaviors to emulate and avoid during and after pregnancy.