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Gait Posture. 2012 Jun;36(2):254-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 Apr 3.

Posturo-respiratory synchronization: effects of aging and stroke.

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Division of Gerontology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Spontaneous respiration influences the body's center-of-mass when standing. We contend that the healthy postural control system actively adapts to respiration, thereby minimizing its effect on postural sway. We therefore examined the interaction between respiration and postural sway, as measured by center-of-pressure (COP) oscillations, and quantified the extent to which this interaction resulted in "posturo-respiratory synchronization." We hypothesized that synchronization would be stronger in elderly subjects and those with stroke, and when standing with eyes closed as compared to open, due to alterations in the physiologic mechanisms that normally regulate postural sway. Twenty-five subjects with chronic hemispheric infarction and 38 controls (50-80 years) stood on a force platform for 3 min with eyes-open and 3 min with eyes-closed. Respiratory flow and COP dynamics were simultaneously recorded. The dominant oscillatory mode of respiration and the corresponding oscillatory modes of anterioposterior and mediolateral COP dynamics were extracted using ensemble empirical mode decomposition. The strength of posturo-respiratory synchronization was quantified from the regularity of instantaneous phase shifts between extracted respiratory and COP oscillations. Significant posturo-respiratory synchronization was only present in the anterioposterior direction. The strength of synchronization increased with age (p<0.01). Closing the eyes increased synchronization strength in both groups (p=0.01), but more so in stroke patients (p=0.01). These observations suggest that a control system actively regulates the effects of respiration on sagittal-plane postural sway, particularly during eyes-open standing. As evidenced by increased posturo-respiratory synchronization with advanced age and central lesion, this novel metric may be used as a clinical marker of altered postural control.

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