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Exp Brain Res. 2011 Apr;210(2):313-24. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2636-9. Epub 2011 Mar 26.

Local and global effects of neck muscle vibration during stabilization of upright standing.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Lifespan Psychology, Lentzeallee 94, 14195, Berlin, Germany.


Neck muscle vibration (NMV) during upright standing is known to induce forward leaning, which has been explained as a global response to the (illusory) perception of a lengthening of the dorsal neck muscles. However, the effects of NMV both at the level of individual joints and on whole-body postural coordination, and its potential modulation by vision, have not yet been analyzed in detail. Eight healthy young adult participants completed a total of ten trials each, with a 10-s period of unperturbed standing followed by a 10-s period of NMV. Participants were instructed to stand "as still as possible". This postural task was executed under two visual conditions: eyes open (EO) and eyes closed (EC). Postural responses were measured in terms of center of pressure (CoP) and center of mass (CoM) profiles, and whole-body kinematics. Responses to NMV at the level of individual body segments and joints were assessed by decomposing the time series into linear trends and residual fluctuations. Inter-segmental coordination was analyzed using a decorrelation technique, assessing motor-equivalent stabilization of four task-related variables: CoM position, trunk orientation, as well as head position and orientation. NMV induced a general forward leaning response under both visual conditions, visible in CoP, CoM, segment positions and orientations. Locally, NMV induced a pronounced extension of the atlanto-occipital joint. Residual fluctuations were higher with EC and unaffected by NMV. Coordination analysis showed that stabilization of different body parts was differentially affected by NMV. Head orientation was consistently stabilized across all conditions, with weaker coordination in the EC condition. In contrast, motor-equivalent stabilization of CoM and head position, and trunk orientation was only observed during no-vibration periods. Taken together, our results demonstrate specific effects of vision and proprioception on different aspects of local and global postural control. While perturbed neck proprioception seemed to affect the postural "set point" (inducing forward leaning), vision appeared to mainly serve in noise reduction (residual fluctuations) and control of head orientation.

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