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PLoS One. 2015 Dec 17;10(12):e0144529. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144529. eCollection 2015.

Reactive Balance Control in Response to Perturbation in Unilateral Stance: Interaction Effects of Direction, Displacement and Velocity on Compensatory Neuromuscular and Kinematic Responses.

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Department of Sport and Sport Science, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Department of Mechatronics, University of Applied Science, Esslingen, Germany.


Unexpected sudden perturbations challenge postural equilibrium and require reactive compensation. This study aimed to assess interaction effects of the direction, displacement and velocity of perturbations on electromyographic (EMG) activity, centre of pressure (COP) displacement and joint kinematics to detect neuromuscular characteristics (phasic and segmental) and kinematic strategies of compensatory reactions in an unilateral balance paradigm. In 20 subjects, COP displacement and velocity, ankle, knee and hip joint excursions and EMG during short (SLR), medium (MLR) and long latency response (LLR) of four shank and five thigh muscles were analysed during random surface translations varying in direction (anterior-posterior (sagittal plane), medial-lateral (frontal plane)), displacement (2 vs. 3 cm) and velocity (0.11 vs. 0.18 m/s) of perturbation when balancing on one leg on a movable platform. Phases: SLR and MLR were scaled to increased velocity (P<0.05); LLR was scaled to increased displacement (P<0.05). Segments: phasic interrelationships were accompanied by segmental distinctions: distal muscles were used for fast compensation in SLR (P<0.05) and proximal muscles to stabilise in LLR (P<0.05). Kinematics: ankle joints compensated for both increasing displacement and velocity in all directions (P<0.05), whereas knee joint deflections were particularly sensitive to increasing displacement in the sagittal (P<0.05) and hip joint deflections to increasing velocity in the frontal plane (P<0.05). COP measures increased with increasing perturbation velocity and displacement (P<0.05). Interaction effects indicate that compensatory responses are based on complex processes, including different postural strategies characterised by phasic and segmental specifications, precisely adjusted to the type of balance disturbance. To regain balance after surface translation, muscles of the distal segment govern the quick regain of equilibrium; the muscles of the proximal limb serve as delayed stabilisers after a balance disturbance. Further, a kinematic distinction regarding the compensation for balance disturbance indicated different plane- and segment-specific sensitivities with respect to the determinants displacement and velocity.

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