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Characteristics of somatosensory feedback in postural control during standing.

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Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan.


In the present study, the function of the somatosensory feedback system in postural control was investigated. For the sake of simplicity, the present study considered only balancing in the anteroposterior direction using the ankle strategy, in which the ankle moment is mainly used to maintain balance. To suppress the vestibular and visual feedback paths, a subject stood on a force-measuring platform with a fixed back support. Because the subject's body was immovable under these conditions, the subject controlled a computer model that simulated the subject's load at the ankles. Information about the sway angle of the model was fed through the somatosensory feedback path. Frequency response functions of the ankle moment in response to the sway angle were calculated. The experimental results suggest that the human somatosensory feedback system has derivative characteristics and, consequently, can maintain an upright posture by itself. The results were compared with those of previous studies on vestibular and visual feedback systems. The comparison reveals that subject-to-subject variance in the somatosensory system is significantly smaller than that in the other systems. This may indicate that the somatosensory feedback is the most automatic of the systems and plays a dominant role when a subject maintains an upright posture using the ankle strategy.

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