Off Balance: Music & Dizziness

blue and red optical illusion spiral print
Photo Source: Christopher Urstitti

It's no secret that when we get spun around - whether self-induced, on a carnival ride, etc. - we get disoriented and experience the phenomena of "vertigo", or dizziness. Alexa J. Wheelan, seventh grade student and second place winner in the human biology category of the 2010 California State Science Fair, wondered whether certain sounds (specifically different types of music) affected participant resistance to this dizziness as well as recovery time.

Project Overview

When dizzy, a person cannot successfully and smoothly follow the movement of an object with their eyes. Instead, they exhibit what is called a horizontal gaze nystagmus - or an eye twitch - caused by dizziness. If you're unfamiliar with this phenomena, watch the following videos for clarification:

Wheelan proposed observing and recording the duration of a participant's nystagmus (as compared to a controlled "no music" trial and compared to the results of other participants' trials) to determine whether the music selections had any effect on resistance and recovery. She hypothesized that complex music with constantly changing tones, rhythms, and beats (represented by her music selection called "Synth") would cause the longest participant recovery, while simpler music selections and of course the absence of music would cause the shortest participant recovery.

To create your own experiment exploring balance and human biology, be sure to view Wheelan's award-winning project summary (project number J1324)! And don't forget to browse the other applicants' project summaries for more ideas!

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