This article reviews the structure function of the vestibular system and its pathology with respect to requirements for the design and construction of a functional vestibular prosthesis. The ultimate goal of a vestibular prosthesis is to restore balance and equilibrium through direct activation of vestibular nerve fibers. An overview of the peripheral and central vestibular systems that highlights their most important functional aspects re: the design of a prosthesis is provided. Namely, the peripheral labyrinth faithfully transduces head motion and gravity in both the time and frequency domains. These signals are described in hopes that they may be prosthetically replicated. The peripheral and central connections of the vestibular nerve are also discussed in detail, as are the vestibular nuclei in the brainstem that receive VIIIth nerve innervation. Lastly, the functional effector pathways of the vestibular system, including the vestibulo-ocular, vestibulo-spinal, vestibulo-colic, vestibulo-autonomic, and vestibular efferent innervation of the labyrinth are reviewed. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.