semicircular canals


Summary: Three long canals (anterior, posterior, and lateral) of the bony labyrinth. They are set at right angles to each other and are situated posterosuperior to the vestibule of the bony labyrinth (VESTIBULAR LABYRINTH). The semicircular canals have five openings into the vestibule with one shared by the anterior and the posterior canals. Within the canals are the SEMICIRCULAR DUCTS.

Top Publications

  1. Davies K, Bates P, Maryanto I, Cotton J, Rossiter S. The evolution of bat vestibular systems in the face of potential antagonistic selection pressures for flight and echolocation. PLoS ONE. 2013;8:e61998 pubmed publisher
    ..First, bats are capable of powered flight, which in birds is associated with enlarged semicircular canals. Second, many bats have enlarged cochleae associated with echolocation, and both cochleae and semicircular ..
  2. Oh S, Kim J, Jeong S, Oh Y, Choi K, Kim B, et al. Treatment of apogeotropic benign positional vertigo: comparison of therapeutic head-shaking and modified Semont maneuver. J Neurol. 2009;256:1330-6 pubmed publisher
    ..The head-shaking maneuver described here proved more effective than the modified Semont maneuver in treating apogeotropic HC-BPV. Mastoid vibration conferred no additional benefit during the Brandt-Daroff exercise...
  3. Weber K, Aw S, Todd M, McGarvie L, Curthoys I, Halmagyi G. Horizontal head impulse test detects gentamicin vestibulotoxicity. Neurology. 2009;72:1417-24 pubmed publisher
    ..Parenteral antibiotic therapy with gentamicin, even in accepted therapeutic doses, can occasionally cause bilateral vestibular loss (BVL) due to hair cell toxicity...
  4. Welker K, Orkin J, Ryan T. Analysis of intraindividual and intraspecific variation in semicircular canal dimensions using high-resolution x-ray computed tomography. J Anat. 2009;215:444-51 pubmed publisher
    ..of this study was to investigate the intraspecific and intraindividual variation in the size of the three semicircular canals. The right and left temporal bones were extracted from 31 individuals of the short-tailed shrew (Blarina ..
  5. Bradshaw A, Curthoys I, Todd M, Magnussen J, Taubman D, Aw S, et al. A mathematical model of human semicircular canal geometry: a new basis for interpreting vestibular physiology. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2010;11:145-59 pubmed publisher
    ..and accessible method of mathematically measuring and modeling the three-dimensional (3D) geometry of semicircular canals (SCCs) in living humans...
  6. Horii A, Kitahara T, Osaki Y, Imai T, Fukuda K, Sakagami M, et al. Intractable benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo: long-term follow-up and inner ear abnormality detected by three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging. Otol Neurotol. 2010;31:250-5 pubmed publisher
    ..To investigate the occurrence rate, prognosis, and inner ear abnormality in intractable benign paroxysmal positioning vertigo (BPPV)...
  7. Jeffery N, Cox P. Do agility and skull architecture influence the geometry of the mammalian vestibulo-ocular reflex?. J Anat. 2010;216:496-509 pubmed publisher
    The spatial arrangement of the semicircular canals and extraocular muscles of the eye has been of considerable interest, particularly to researchers working on adaptations of the vestibulo-ocular reflex...
  8. Krause E, Louza J, Wechtenbruch J, Gurkov R. Influence of cochlear implantation on peripheral vestibular receptor function. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;142:809-13 pubmed publisher
  9. Aoki S, Takei Y, Suzuki K, Masukawa A, Arai Y. Planer orientation of the bilateral semicircular canals in dizzy patients. Auris Nasus Larynx. 2012;39:451-4 pubmed publisher
    ..Therefore, the knowledge of anatomical orientation of bilateral semicircular canals is essential, as all 6 canals influence the eye movements.

More Information


  1. Pondugula S, Kampalli S, Wu T, De Lisle R, Raveendran N, Harbidge D, et al. cAMP-stimulated Cl- secretion is increased by glucocorticoids and inhibited by bumetanide in semicircular canal duct epithelium. BMC Physiol. 2013;13:6 pubmed publisher
    ..In the current study, we sought to determine the ion transporters involved in Cl- secretion and whether secretion is regulated by PKA and glucocorticoids...
  2. Rakowiecki S, Epstein D. Divergent roles for Wnt/?-catenin signaling in epithelial maintenance and breakdown during semicircular canal formation. Development. 2013;140:1730-9 pubmed publisher
    The morphogenetic program that shapes the three semicircular canals (SSCs) must be executed with extreme precision to satisfy their complex vestibular function...
  3. Malinzak M, Kay R, Hullar T. Locomotor head movements and semicircular canal morphology in primates. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109:17914-9 pubmed publisher
    Animal locomotion causes head rotations, which are detected by the semicircular canals of the inner ear...
  4. Migliaccio A, Cremer P. The 2D modified head impulse test: a 2D technique for measuring function in all six semi-circular canals. J Vestib Res. 2011;21:227-34 pubmed publisher
    The head impulse test can be used to measure peripheral vestibular function of all six semicircular canals. Traditionally, vertical canal function is measured by rotating the head from a starting neutral position (forward facing) about a ..
  5. Tomaz A, Ganança M, Ganança C, Ganança F, Caovilla H, Harker L. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: concomitant involvement of different semicircular canals. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2009;118:113-7 pubmed
    We evaluated the simultaneous ipsilateral or contralateral involvement of the posterior and lateral, anterior and lateral, or posterior and anterior semicircular canals in patients with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
  6. Crovetto M, Whyte J, Rodriguez O, Lecumberri I, Martinez C, Elexpuru J. Anatomo-radiological study of the Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence Radiological considerations of Superior and Posterior Semicircular Canals. Eur J Radiol. 2010;76:167-72 pubmed publisher
    ..We have also analysed the relation between the ossification state of the semicircular canals and the degree of mastoid pneumatization and integrity of Tegmen Tympani.
  7. Andrianov G, Ryzhova I, Tobias T. Dopaminergic modulation of afferent synaptic transmission in the semicircular canals of frogs. Neurosignals. 2009;17:222-8 pubmed publisher
  8. Boyle R, Rabbitt R, Highstein S. Efferent control of hair cell and afferent responses in the semicircular canals. J Neurophysiol. 2009;102:1513-25 pubmed publisher
    ..In the semicircular canals, brain stem efferent neurons make synaptic contacts with mechanosensory hair cells and with the dendrites ..
  9. Feigl G, Fasel J, Anderhuber F, Ulz H, Rienmüller R, Guyot J, et al. Superior vestibular neurectomy: a novel transmeatal approach for a denervation of the superior and lateral semicircular canals. Otol Neurotol. 2009;30:586-91 pubmed publisher
  10. Weber K, Macdougall H, Halmagyi G, Curthoys I. Impulsive testing of semicircular-canal function using video-oculography. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009;1164:486-91 pubmed publisher
    ..This system is easy to use in a clinical setting, provides an objective measure of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), and detects both overt and covert catch-up saccades in patients with vestibular loss...
  11. Muir G, Brown J, Carey J, Hirvonen T, Della Santina C, Minor L, et al. Disruption of the head direction cell signal after occlusion of the semicircular canals in the freely moving chinchilla. J Neurosci. 2009;29:14521-33 pubmed publisher
    ..To assess the specific contributions of the semicircular canals without altering tonic VIIIth nerve input, ADN cells were recorded from chinchillas after bilateral ..
  12. Cox P, Jeffery N. Semicircular canals and agility: the influence of size and shape measures. J Anat. 2010;216:37-47 pubmed publisher
    The semicircular canals of the inner ear sense angular accelerations and decelerations of the head and enable co-ordination of posture and body movement, as well as visual stability...
  13. Ryan T, Silcox M, Walker A, Mao X, Begun D, Benefit B, et al. Evolution of locomotion in Anthropoidea: the semicircular canal evidence. Proc Biol Sci. 2012;279:3467-75 pubmed
    ..The latter scenario would indicate that hominoids of the later Miocene secondarily derived their relatively slow locomotor repertoires...
  14. Rabbitt R, Boyle R, Highstein S. Mechanical amplification by hair cells in the semicircular canals. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107:3864-9 pubmed publisher
    ..The biophysical basis of the motor(s) remains hypothetical, but a key discriminating question may involve how changes in somatic electrical impedance evoked by efferent synaptic action alter function of the motor(s)...
  15. Curthoys I. The interpretation of clinical tests of peripheral vestibular function. Laryngoscope. 2012;122:1342-52 pubmed publisher
  16. Hammond K, van Eeden F, Whitfield T. Repression of Hedgehog signalling is required for the acquisition of dorsolateral cell fates in the zebrafish otic vesicle. Development. 2010;137:1361-71 pubmed publisher
  17. Vervoort R, Ceulemans H, Van Aerschot L, D Hooge R, David G. Genetic modification of the inner ear lateral semicircular canal phenotype of the Bmp4 haplo-insufficient mouse. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2010;394:780-5 pubmed publisher
    ..Candidate genes to contain the causal mutation are Bmp4 on chromosome 14, and Rere on chromosome 4...
  18. Noda T, Oki S, Kitajima K, Harada T, Komune S, Meno C. Restriction of Wnt signaling in the dorsal otocyst determines semicircular canal formation in the mouse embryo. Dev Biol. 2012;362:83-93 pubmed publisher
    ..The semicircular canals of the vestibule form from the periphery of the outpocketings, with the central region (the fusion plate) ..
  19. Macrini T, Flynn J, Croft D, Wyss A. Inner ear of a notoungulate placental mammal: anatomical description and examination of potentially phylogenetically informative characters. J Anat. 2010;216:600-10 pubmed publisher
    ..We also assess the locomotor agility of Notostylops based on measurements of the semicircular canals. This is the best available data on the locomotion of a notostylopid because significant postcranial ..
  20. Ichijo H. Can caloric testing evaluate the function of vertical semicircular canals?. Acta Otolaryngol. 2011;131:716-21 pubmed publisher
    Neither posterior nor superior semicircular canal receives a caloric effect; therefore, caloric testing cannot evaluate the function of vertical semicircular canals.
  21. Valli P, Botta L, Zucca G, Valli S, Buizza A. Simulation of cupulolithiasis and canalolithiasis by an animal model. J Vestib Res. 2008;18:89-96 pubmed
  22. Silcox M, Bloch J, Boyer D, Godinot M, Ryan T, Spoor F, et al. Semicircular canal system in early primates. J Hum Evol. 2009;56:315-27 pubmed publisher
    Mammals with more rapid and agile locomotion have larger semicircular canals relative to body mass than species that move more slowly...
  23. Kushiro K, Bai R, Kitajima N, Sugita Kitajima A, Uchino Y. Properties and axonal trajectories of posterior semicircular canal nerve-activated vestibulospinal neurons. Exp Brain Res. 2008;191:257-64 pubmed publisher
  24. Lasker D, Han G, Park H, Minor L. Rotational responses of vestibular-nerve afferents innervating the semicircular canals in the C57BL/6 mouse. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2008;9:334-48 pubmed publisher
    Extracellular recordings were made from vestibular-nerve afferents innervating the semicircular canals in anesthetized C57BL/6 mice ranging in age from 4-24 weeks...
  25. Russo G, Lelli A, Gioglio L, Prigioni I. Nature and expression of dihydropyridine-sensitive and -insensitive calcium currents in hair cells of frog semicircular canals. Pflugers Arch. 2003;446:189-97 pubmed
    ..Finally, immunocytochemical investigations revealed the presence of Ca(2+) channel subunits of the alpha(1D) type and the unexpected expression of alpha(1B)-subunits...
  26. Brantberg K, Bergenius J, Tribukait A. Vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials in patients with dehiscence of the superior semicircular canal. Acta Otolaryngol. 1999;119:633-40 pubmed
  27. Blasiole B, Kabbani N, Boehmler W, Thisse B, Thisse C, Canfield V, et al. Neuronal calcium sensor-1 gene ncs-1a is essential for semicircular canal formation in zebrafish inner ear. J Neurobiol. 2005;64:285-97 pubmed
    ..Knockdown of ncs-1a mRNA translation with antisense morpholinos blocked formation of semicircular canals. These studies identify a novel function for ncs-1a in inner ear development and suggest that this calcium ..
  28. Della Santina C, Potyagaylo V, Migliaccio A, Minor L, Carey J. Orientation of human semicircular canals measured by three-dimensional multiplanar CT reconstruction. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2005;6:191-206 pubmed
    ..reflex experiments requires knowledge of the absolute orientations (with respect to skull landmarks) of semicircular canals (SCC)...
  29. Morimoto A, Wiggins R, Hudgins P, Hedlund G, Hamilton B, Mukherji S, et al. Absent semicircular canals in CHARGE syndrome: radiologic spectrum of findings. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2006;27:1663-71 pubmed
    ..With this information, neuroradiologists will be better prepared to provide clinically relevant information to their referring physicians regarding this rare syndrome...
  30. Cryns K, van Alphen A, van Spaendonck M, Van de Heyning P, Timmermans J, De Zeeuw C, et al. Circling behavior in the Ecl mouse is caused by lateral semicircular canal defects. J Comp Neurol. 2004;468:587-95 pubmed
    ..Investigation of the vestibuloocular reflex (VOR) in Ecl mice showed that their horizontal VOR on stimulation is virtually absent, which correlates with the morphological findings...
  31. Ivanenko Y, Grasso R, Israel I, Berthoz A. The contribution of otoliths and semicircular canals to the perception of two-dimensional passive whole-body motion in humans. J Physiol. 1997;502 ( Pt 1):223-33 pubmed
    ..4. The curvature of the drawn paths was mostly explained by the input to the semicircular canals. Subjects' reconstruction of motion did not account for the directional dynamics of the input to the ..
  32. Valli P, Buizza A, Botta L, Zucca G, Ghezzi L, Valli S. Convection, buoyancy or endolymph expansion: what is the actual mechanism responsible for the caloric response of semicircular canals?. J Vestib Res. 2002;12:155-65 pubmed
    ..Only the predictions of the model based on buoyancy were fully consistent with the experimental results whereas those provided by the other models were not...
  33. Milhaud P, Pondugula S, Lee J, Herzog M, Lehouelleur J, Wangemann P, et al. Chloride secretion by semicircular canal duct epithelium is stimulated via beta 2-adrenergic receptors. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2002;283:C1752-60 pubmed
    ..The current work points to one possible etiology of endolymphatic hydrops in Meniere's disease and may provide a basis for intervention...
  34. Brantberg K, Bergenius J, Mendel L, Witt H, Tribukait A, Ygge J. Symptoms, findings and treatment in patients with dehiscence of the superior semicircular canal. Acta Otolaryngol. 2001;121:68-75 pubmed
    ..Two of the patients have undergone plugging of the superior semicircular canal using a transmastoid approach and both patients were relieved of the pressure-induced symptoms...
  35. Zupan L, Peterka R, Merfeld D. Neural processing of gravito-inertial cues in humans. I. Influence of the semicircular canals following post-rotatory tilt. J Neurophysiol. 2000;84:2001-15 pubmed
    ..The vestibular system includes two types of sensors: the semicircular canals, which measure head rotation, and the otolith organs, which measure gravito-inertial force (GIF), the sum ..
  36. Salminen M, Meyer B, Bober E, Gruss P. Netrin 1 is required for semicircular canal formation in the mouse inner ear. Development. 2000;127:13-22 pubmed
    ..epithelium, in cells that will come together to form a fusion plate, a prerequisite for the formation of semicircular canals. In netrin 1 mutant mice, fusion plate formation is severely affected resulting in a reduced anterior ..
  37. Geisler H, Gramsbergen A. The EMG development of the longissimus and multifidus muscles after plugging the horizontal semicircular canals. J Vestib Res. 1998;8:399-409 pubmed
    The effects of plugging both horizontal semicircular canals at the 5th postnatal day (P5) on the development of the EMG of two back muscles (the M. longissimus lateralis and the M. multifidus) were studied in rats between P5 and P46...
  38. Aw S, Haslwanter T, Fetter M, Heimberger J, Todd M. Contribution of the vertical semicircular canals to the caloric nystagmus. Acta Otolaryngol. 1998;118:618-27 pubmed
    ..rotation axis before and after each vertical canal plane reorientation, with the geometry of the stimulated semicircular canals, also showed directional modulation of the caloric nystagmus by the vertical canal response...
  39. Zink R, Bucher S, Weiss A, Brandt T, Dieterich M. Effects of galvanic vestibular stimulation on otolithic and semicircular canal eye movements and perceived vertical. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1998;107:200-5 pubmed
    ..The aim of this study was to determine the otolithic and semicircular canal effects of galvanic vestibular stimulation with increasing current strengths on eye movements and the perception of verticality...
  40. Pondugula S, Sanneman J, Wangemann P, Milhaud P, Marcus D. Glucocorticoids stimulate cation absorption by semicircular canal duct epithelium via epithelial sodium channel. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2004;286:F1127-35 pubmed
    ..The results provide for the first time an understanding of the therapeutic benefit of glucocorticoids in the treatment of Meniere's disease, a condition that is associated with increased luminal fluid volume...
  41. Hornibrook J. Horizontal canal benign positional vertigo. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2004;113:721-5 pubmed
    ..The mechanism can be canalithiasis or cupulolithiasis. Repositioning treatment is a 360 degrees horizontal head and body rotation that has a high success rate if the symptomatic ear is correctly identified...
  42. Limb C, Carey J, Srireddy S, Minor L. Auditory function in patients with surgically treated superior semicircular canal dehiscence. Otol Neurotol. 2006;27:969-80 pubmed
    ..To characterize preoperative and postoperative audiologic findings in patients with superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome...
  43. Blauwkamp M, Beyer L, Kabara L, Takemura K, Buck T, King W, et al. The role of bone morphogenetic protein 4 in inner ear development and function. Hear Res. 2007;225:71-9 pubmed
    ..Thus Bmp4(+/-) mice have structural and functional deficits in the inner ear...
  44. Lee S, Choi K, Jeong S, Oh Y, Koo J, Kim J. Nystagmus during neck flexion in the pitch plane in benign paroxysmal positional vertigo involving the horizontal canal. J Neurol Sci. 2007;256:75-80 pubmed
    ..In benign paroxysmal positional vertigo involving the horizontal canal (HC-BPPV), nystagmus may be induced by neck flexion in the pitch plane while sitting (head-bending nystagmus)...
  45. Martini M, Farinelli F, Rossi M, Rispoli G. Ca2+ current of frog vestibular hair cells is modulated by intracellular ATP but not by long-lasting depolarisation. Eur Biophys J. 2007;36:779-86 pubmed
    Some aspects of Ca(2+) channel modulation in hair cells isolated from semicircular canals of the frog (Rana esculenta) have been investigated using the whole-cell technique and intra and extracellular solutions designed to modify the ..
  46. Jung N, Moon W, Lee M, Chung E. Magnetic resonance cisternography: comparison between 3-dimensional driven equilibrium with sensitivity encoding and 3-dimensional balanced fast-field echo sequences with sensitivity encoding. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2007;31:588-91 pubmed
  47. Jeffery N, Ryan T, Spoor F. The primate subarcuate fossa and its relationship to the semicircular canals part II: adult interspecific variation. J Hum Evol. 2008;55:326-39 pubmed publisher
    Studies have reported an empirical link between the size of the semicircular canals and locomotor agility across adult primates...
  48. Chang W, Lin Z, Kulessa H, Hebert J, Hogan B, Wu D. Bmp4 is essential for the formation of the vestibular apparatus that detects angular head movements. PLoS Genet. 2008;4:e1000050 pubmed publisher
    Angular head movements in vertebrates are detected by the three semicircular canals of the inner ear and their associated sensory tissues, the cristae...
  49. Asprella Libonati G. Pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus: a new sign to diagnose the affected side in lateral semicircular canal benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2008;28:73-8 pubmed
    ..Early identification of the affected side improves efficacy of treatment and compliance of patients...
  50. Rabbitt R, Boyle R, Holstein G, Highstein S. Hair-cell versus afferent adaptation in the semicircular canals. J Neurophysiol. 2005;93:424-36 pubmed
  51. Highstein S, Rabbitt R, Holstein G, Boyle R. Determinants of spatial and temporal coding by semicircular canal afferents. J Neurophysiol. 2005;93:2359-70 pubmed
    The vestibular semicircular canals are internal sensors that signal the magnitude, direction, and temporal properties of angular head motion...
  52. Aw S, Fetter M, Cremer P, Karlberg M, Halmagyi G. Individual semicircular canal function in superior and inferior vestibular neuritis. Neurology. 2001;57:768-74 pubmed
    ..To examine the concept of selective superior and inferior vestibular nerve involvement in vestibular neuritis by studying the distribution of semicircular canal (SCC) involvement in such patients...
  53. Fekete D, Homburger S, Waring M, Riedl A, Garcia L. Involvement of programmed cell death in morphogenesis of the vertebrate inner ear. Development. 1997;124:2451-61 pubmed
    ..which acquires a precise three-dimensional arrangement of its constituent epithelial cells to form three semicircular canals, a central vestibule and a coiled cochlea (in mammals)...