Medical Dictionary

Medical Dictionary

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semicircular canals

The angular acceleration detectors within the semicircular canals function in a different way. The three canals?which in fact are considerably more than a semicircle in circumference?are oriented at approximately right angles to one another. Two are vertically placed, and one is at about 30° to the horizontal. In this arrangement the anterior canal of one side of the head is in the plane of the posterior canal of the other side. A ridge, or crista, covered by sensory hair cells is located at the end of each canal within an expanded chamber called the ampulla. Rotation of the canals about an imaginary axis passing through the centre of each semicircle causes endolymphatic fluid to flow toward or away from the crista, generating a force that bends the cilia by displacement of a gelatinous plate resting upon the hairs. The cells of the vertical canals are oriented in such a way that centrifugal movement away from the cristae depolarizes the hair cell membranes of the vertical canals, while the opposite applies to the horizontal canal.

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