Top figure skaters spin at such unbelievably fast speeds — as many as six revolutions per second — that it can make even spectators feel a little woozy. Although they occasionally tumble upon landing, figure skaters mostly spin through the air without losing their balance. That’s because they have conditioned their bodies and brains to quash that dizzying feeling, experts say.

Training the brain

At the start of their careers, skaters and other athletes feel dizzy when they spin around, Cullen says,  a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. But ultimately, they train their brains to better interpret that feeling.

“There’s a really profound fundamental thing that happens in the brain of people like dancers or skaters over lots and lots of practice. And that’s basically a change in the way the brain is processing information,” Cullen says.

“When you spin around, you’re activating the semicircular canals, rotation sensors. They’re filled with fluid and they’re sensing your rotation. But when you stop, the fluid has inertia and it tends to continue to move. They actually get a false sensation of movement.”


Over years of training, figure skaters’ brains have adapted and learned to ignore this error, she says.

“This is done over time with each practice session, day by day, as the brain compares its expectations with what it is actually pulling in from its sensory receptors.”

Most people feel like the world’s still whirling even after they stop spinning. But Olympians, and skaters in particular, generally do not because their brains have changed to suppress the feeling.

Other athletes 

“Ballet dancers often whip their head around during each turn to fixate a visual reference. Similarly, at the end of the spin, athletes will fixate their eyes at a specific spot on the wall to provide a fixed reference,” Cullen says.

The brain and the inner ear are in constant communication with the body and one another to achieve balance.

“For most people, however, dizziness is only a potential issue during faster and more forceful activities,” Dwyer says. “Amazingly, when needed, our brains can be prompted over time to better handle the dizzying tasks we encounter.”

Source: CNN