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Hum Mov Sci. 2013 Aug;32(4):857-65. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2013.07.002. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

The effects of initial movement dynamics on human responses to postural perturbations.

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  • 1Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory, School of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Electronic address: chantelle.murnaghan@alumni.ubc.ca.


Falls are a major cause of injury, and often occur while turning, reaching, or bending. Yet, we have little understanding of how an ongoing feet-in place activity at the onset of imbalance, and its associated cognitive and biomechanical demands, influence our ability to recover balance. In the current study, we used an ankle-rocking paradigm to determine how the nature of the baseline task influences the balance recovery response to a backward support surface translation. Fourteen participants were instructed to "recover balance without stepping" and were perturbed at vertical while standing quietly ("S"), while ankle rocking and moving forward ("A_f"), or while ankle rocking and moving backward ("A_b"). The results showed that changes in rocking velocity at the time of the perturbation elicited changes in the incidence of stepping, magnitude of trunk angular displacements (p<.01), and the onset latencies of distal muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus, both p<.01) used to recover balance. In addition, plots of onset latencies across all muscles showed that onset latencies appeared to occur earlier in many muscles when participants held a static position compared to when they performed a dynamic task at the onset of the perturbation. The results suggest that muscle activities used to recover balance are tailored to the nature of the perturbation and the ongoing task, and that onset latencies are later when participants are performing a dynamic as opposed to static task at the time of a perturbation. These findings support previous research suggesting that automatic postural responses are highly adaptable to environmental, situational, and task demands.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


2330; Dynamic equilibrium; Postural responses; Posture

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