The ease with which we avoid falling down belies a highly sophisticated and distributed neural network for controlling reactions to maintain upright balance. Although historically these reactions were considered within the sub cortical domain, mounting evidence reveals a distributed network for postural control including a potentially important role for the cerebral cortex. Support for this cortical role comes from direct measurement associated with moments of induced instability as well as indirect links between cognitive task performance and balance recovery. The cerebral cortex appears to be directly involved in the control of rapid balance reactions but also setting the central nervous system in advance to optimize balance recovery reactions even when a future threat to stability is unexpected. In this review the growing body of evidence that now firmly supports a cortical role in the postural responses to externally induced perturbations is presented. Moreover, an updated framework is advanced to help understand how cortical contributions may influence our resistance to falls and on what timescale. The implications for future studies into the neural control of balance are discussed.