Mechanical aspects of the semicircular ducts in the vestibular system

Mees Muller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The semicircular ducts (SCDs) of the vestibular system play an instrumental role in equilibration and rotation perception of vertebrates. The present paper is a review of quantitative approaches and shows how SCDs function. It consists of three parts. First, the biophysical mechanisms of an SCD system composed of three mutually connected ducts, allowing endolymph to flow from one duct into another one, are analysed. The flow is quantified by solving the continuity equations in conjunction with the equations of motion of the SCD hydrodynamics. This leads to mathematical expressions that are suitable for further analytical and numerical analysis. Second, analytical solutions are derived through four simplifying steps while keeping the essentials of the coupled system intact. Some examples of flow distributions for different rotations are given. Third, the focus is on the transducer function of the SCDs. The complex structure of the mechano-electrical transduction apparatus inside the ampullae is described, and the consequences for sensitivity and frequency response are evaluated. Furthermore, both the contributions of the different terms of the equations of motion and the influence of Brownian motion are analysed. Finally, size limitations, allometry and evolutionary aspects are taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-442
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Early online date5 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Hair cells
  • Octavo-lateralis
  • Rotation receptor
  • Semicircular duct
  • Vestibular system


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanical aspects of the semicircular ducts in the vestibular system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this