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PLoS One. 2019 Oct 17;14(10):e0223850. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223850. eCollection 2019.

Contractile properties of superficial skeletal muscle affect postural control in healthy young adults: A test of the rambling and trembling hypothesis.

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School of Kinesiology, Yeungnam University, Gyeongsan, Republic of Korea.
Graduate School of Engineering Science, Department of Mechanical Science and Bioengineering, Osaka University, Toyonaka, Japan.


The rambling and trembling analysis separates the center of pressure (COP) fluctuations into two components: rambling (supraspinal contribution) and trembling (muscle stiffness / reflexive properties contribution). We examined whether the trembling component is correlated to the contractile properties (muscle stiffness and contraction time) of lower limb superficial skeletal muscles to experimentally test the rambling and trembling hypothesis. We hypothesized that muscle stiffness and contraction time, would be: (a) more correlated with; and (b) have a greater impact on the trembling component compared to the rambling component. Thirty-two healthy young adults were recruited for the study and tensiomyography was used to assess mechanical muscle responses to a single electrical stimulus to calculate muscle stiffness and contraction time based on radial muscle belly displacement measurements of lower limb muscles unilaterally. Moreover, upright postural control was assessed using a force plate to record ground reaction forces and moments and calculate the COP fluctuations during two 30 seconds trials. From the COP fluctuations, rambling and trembling time series were extracted, and all fluctuation time series were described using a number of different time-domain and frequency-domain parameters in both the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions. Our results demonstrated that both muscle stiffness and contraction time were moderately correlated with time-domain and frequency-domain parameters of the trembling component, as compared with those of the rambling component which was not as well correlated. Moreover, they also predicted the trembling component better. Overall, these results imply that postural control during quiet stance is, in part, related to intrinsic muscle stiffness in the lower extremities. Moreover, we showed that the rambling and trembling hypothesis is effective in separating postural sway fluctuations during upright posture to extract the contributions of muscle stiffness / reflexive properties (trembling), and likely the supraspinal contribution (rambling).

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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