Balancing sensory inputs: Sensory reweighting of vision and ankle proprioception during a bipedal posture task

Multisensory integration is driven by a process of sensory reweighting during which each input is assigned a weight depending on the current functional state of a particular sensory system, the task itself and the context in which it is being performed. The primary aim of this study was to determine which of the two inputs between ankle proprioception and vision is upweighed during a postural control task when the two inputs provide conflicting information pertaining to direction of body sway. Achilles tendon vibration and visual flow were used to create sensory conflict, which produced center of pressure (COP) sway in opposite directions when applied independently. The baseline conditions (1) consisted of eyes open quiet stance condition, eyes closed with vibration applied on the Achilles tendons (2) and eyes open with visual flow (3). The experimental condition simultaneously combined vibration and visual flow. COP excursions were recorded in 10 healthy young adults to evaluate the magnitude and direction of sway produced by vibration and/or visual flow. Additionally, lower body joint kinematics were evaluated to understand the multi-segmental strategies and their adaptation to the various sensory manipulations. The results showed that visual flow moderated the extent of backward COP and ankle angular displacement produced when vibration was applied independently. Additionally, visual flow was also found to reduce the extent of predominant hip strategy generated by ankle vibration. The findings show that visual input plays a significant role in maintaining stability and that ankle proprioception is downweighed during conflicts between vision and proprioception. This has important implication for balance training using controlled visual flow in patients with balance disorders and elderly.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Posturography

Locomotor Stability Control and Vestibular Function among Older Adults: Implications for Falls Prevention and Research

In the following project, we explored the relationships between age, vestibulopathy and stability control, in order to determine the age and vestibulopathy-related effects on stability control, and to establish if a relationship existed between static and dynamic stability task performance. The first study examined the response to repeated trip perturbations of healthy middle aged adults and vestibulopathy patients, the second examined feedforward adaptation of gait in young, middle aged and older adults to a sustained mechanical perturbation and the third examined the relationship between standing balance and recovery following a tripping perturbation in vestibulopathy patients. The results showed that vestibulopathy is related to a diminished ability to control and recover gait stability after an unexpected perturbation, and to a deficient reactive adaptation potential. With ageing, the ability to recalibrate locomotor commands to control stability is preserved, although this recalibration may be slower in old age compared to middle and young age. Given that a decline in vestibular function is seen with increasing age, we suggest that assessment of vestibular function may be necessary when investigating locomotor stability and falls risk in both research and clinical settings. Finally, despite static balance tasks and parameters being commonly used in clinical settings, we did not find a consistent relationship between static and dynamic stability task performance, indicating the importance of dynamic stability tests when assessing falls risk in clinical settings.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Posturography


Sensorimotor changes such as postural and gait instabilities can affect the functional performance of astronauts after gravitational transitions. When astronauts are trained before flight with supra-threshold noisy, stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS), the central nervous system can be trained to reweight sensory information by using veridical information from other sensory inputs (such as vision and proprioception) for postural and gait control. This reweighting, in turn, can enhance functional performance in novel gravitational environments. However, the optimal maximum amplitude of stimulation has not yet been identified that can simulate the effect of deterioration in vestibular inputs for preflight training or for evaluating vestibular contribution in functional tests in general. Most studies have used arbitrary but fixed maximum current amplitudes from 3 to 5 mA in the mediolateral (ML) direction to disrupt balance function in both ML and anterior-posterior directions in healthy adults. The goal of this study was to determine the minimum SVS level that yields an equivalently degraded balance performance. Fourteen subjects stood on a compliant surface with their eyes closed and were instructed to maintain a stable upright stance. Measures of stability of the head, trunk, and whole body were quantified in the ML direction. Objective perceptual motion thresholds were estimated ahead of time by having subjects sit on a chair with their eyes closed and giving 1-Hz bipolar binaural sinusoidal electrical stimulation at various current amplitudes. Results from the balance task suggest that using stimulation amplitudes of 280% of motion-perceptual threshold (~2.2 mA on average) significantly degraded balance performance.

Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Posturography

Acute Effects of Lateral Ankle Sprains on Range of Motion, Single Limb Balance, and Self-Reported Function

One in three individuals who suffer a lateral ankle sprain (LAS) subsequently develop chronic ankle instability. However, our inability to properly treat acute LAS is not surprising given our limited understanding of post-LAS consequences. 12 patients (21.6±2.9yrs; 172.9±13.1cm; 79.1±21.4kg) with an acute LAS participated. All participants were evaluated for dorsiflexion range of motion (DFROM), time-to-boundary (TTB) in single limb balance (SLB), and self-reported function (SRF) at 1-week, 2-weeks, 4-weeks, 6-weeks, and 8-weeks post injury. Both the involved and uninvolved limbs were measured during the patients first test session. DFROM was assessed using the weight-bearing lunge test and all participants performed 3, 10s of single limb stance with eyes open on a force plate to measure their single limb balance. SRF was measured using the Foot and Ankle Ability Measure (FAAM) and FAAM-Sport (FAAM-S). Post injury time points were compared to a control condition using multivariate ANOVAs (α=0.05). Relative to the control condition, FAAM and FAAM-S were significantly lower at 1-week and 2-weeks post injury. The FAAM-S was also significantly lower score compare to control condition at 4-weeks post-injury. Both FAAM and FAAM-S were not significant different at 6-weeks post-injury. Post-injury TTB measures and DFROM were not significantly different from the control condition. Non-significant declines in DFROM and TTB were observed as in this sample of acute LAS and appear to present with unique recovery patterns. Different recovery patterns among the tested outcomes indicate the need for further research with a larger cohort and for a longer post-injury duration.

Listed In: Biomechanics, Physical Therapy, Posturography, Sports Science

Sensory contributions to standing balance in unilateral vestibulopathy

Patients with unilateral peripheral vestibular disorder (UPVD) have diminished postural stability and therefore the aim of this study was to examine the contribution of multiple sensory systems to postural control in UPVD. Seventeen adults with UPVD and 17 healthy controls participated in this study. Centre of pressure (COP) trajectories were assessed using a force plate during six standing tasks: Forwards and backwards leaning, and standing with and without Achilles tendon vibration, each with eyes open and eyes closed. Postural stability was evaluated over 30s by means of: total COP excursion distance (COPPath) and the distances between the most anterior and posterior points of the COPPath and the anterior and posterior anatomical boundaries of the base of support (COPAmin and COPPmin). In addition, the corrected COPAmin and COPPmin was assessed by taking the corrected base of support boundaries into account using the anterior and posterior COP data from the leaning tasks. UPVD patients showed a tendency for smaller limits of stability during the leaning tasks in both directions. Subject group and task condition effects were found (P<0.05) for COPPath, (i.e. higher values for patients compared to controls). UPVD patients showed lower (P<0.05) COPPmin values compared to the control group for all conditions (more pronounced with the corrected COPPmin). Disturbance of the visual system alone lead to a distinct postural backward sway in both subject groups which became significantly more pronounced in combination with Achilles tendon vibration. The individual limits of stability should be considered in future research when conducting posturographic measurements.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy, Posturography

Static postural control does not strongly predict dynamic gait stability recovery following a trip in adults with and without vestibular dysfunction

Unilateral peripheral vestibular disorder (UPVD) negatively affects upper and lower body motor performance, but postural control during quiet stance in UPVD patients has not been directly compared with dynamic stability control after an unexpected perturbation during locomotion. We analysed centre of pressure (COP) characteristics during static posturography in UPVD patients and healthy controls and compared this with performance of a trip recovery task. 17 UPVD patients and 17 healthy controls were unexpectedly tripped while walking on a treadmill. The margin of stability (MoS) was calculated at touchdown (TD) of the perturbed step and the first six recovery steps. Posturography was used to assess postural stability during 30 seconds of standing with eyes open and closed using a force plate. The trip reduced the MoS of the perturbed leg (p<0.05) with no significant differences in MoS between the groups. Controls returned to MoS baseline level in five steps and patients did not return within the six steps. UPVD patients showed a greater total COP sway path excursion (closed eyes only), anterior-posterior range of COP distance and a more posterior COP position in relation to the posterior boundary of the base of support. There were no significant correlations between COP sway path excursion and MoS values. We concluded that UPVD patients have a diminished ability to control and recover dynamic gait stability after an unexpected trip and lower static postural stability control compared to healthy matched controls, but that trip recovery and static postural control rely on different control mechanisms.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy, Posturography

Postural Responses to Noisy Support Surface Translations in Stroke Survivors

Healthy standing posture is characterized by the ability to interact with a changing environment while maintaining upright stance. Being adaptable to changing environments affords flexibility and allows the system to encounter novel environments without losing control of posture. The purpose of this research was to determine if stroke survivors could adapt to support surface translations with differing temporal structures. Methods: Eight stroke survivors participated in this research. Participants stood on a force platform on the Neurocom Balance Manager (Neurocom Intl., Clackamas, OR, USA). The support surface was translated in the anteroposterior direction according to waveforms with different temporal structures, this included white noise, pink noise, brown noise, and a sine wave. They also performed a normal standing trial where the platform did not move. Root mean square and detrended fluctuation analysis of the center of pressure signal were calculated to determine amount and temporal structure of variability respectively. Results: During normal standing the stroke survivors’ posture exhibited lack of adaptability. The stroke survivors had increased amount of variability in all conditions compared to normal standing, regardless of the inherent structure of the support surface translations. The temporal structure of variability indicated weakened long-range correlations in all conditions compared to normal standing. This indicates that regardless of the temporal structure of the support surface movement the amount of movement increased while the structure of movement became more random. Previous work has demonstrated that healthy posture is able to adapt to the temporal structure of support surface translations, this adaptability was not seen in a population of stroke survivors. This lack of adaptability makes interactions with environmental perturbations difficult and impacts functionality. Focusing rehabilitation protocols towards regaining healthy temporal structures in postural control could improve functionality in chronic stroke survivors.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Posturography

Auditory Cues on Postural Control in Parkinson&#039;s Disease: A Pilot Study

Objective: To evaluate the effect of auditory cues toward postural control in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Background: Auditory cues have been proved to be one of rehabilitation strategies for PD [1]. Most of Parkinson's Disease patients present postural instabilities regarding the severity of the disease [2, 3]. Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) has been justified to be a standardized neurological motor therapy (NMTs) in PD, which cue-ing benefits may be associated with the activation of cerebellum-thalamic-cortical circuitry [4]. A potential method to stimulate the putamen that might help regulate PD brain's circuits could be providing music as a rhythmical cue [4]. A distinct manifestation in PD is also the arm swing reduction [5] which limits the capability of maintaining balance. It is rare to explore the static standing balance in Parkinson's Disease. Methods: 5 idiopathic PD patients (5 female) aged 72.6 ± 2.51 years, duration of the disease 15 ± 1.22 years (mean ± SD), H&Y 2.5-3 participated in this study. They were recruited from Yawata Medical Center, Ishikawa, Japan in June and November, 2014. The subjects were instructed to stand on the balance platform (Nintendo Wii Fit) and swing arm; Alternation (Alt) and Synchronization (Syn) in 3 scenarios; with no auditory cues (AC), with AC 5% increased and with AC 5 % decreased. The data were analyzed by Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test and the dimensional clustering method [6] on MATLAB. Results: Tempo at 95% improved area, RMS and Min ML in Alternation, and decreased the path length in rest 2. Tempo at 105% decreased area and RMS in rest 2 statistically significant. A case with H&Y stage 3 showed poorer postural control in both Antero-Posterior (AP) and Medio-Lateral (ML) directions. Most cases presented the higher Center of Pressure (CoP) displacement in ML direction. AC with arm swing regulated the pattern of CoP trajectories. Conclusions: Auditory cues with arm swing - Alternation improved postural control in the PD patients. This concept might be considered clinically to be a rehabilitation program for Parkinson's disease (PD) to improve standing balance. It is a need to enlarge the sample size and develop more rehabilitation programs for improving balance in PD.
Listed In: Physical Therapy, Posturography

Are static and dynamic squatting activities comparable?

Background: Numerous studies have described 3D kinematics, 3D kinetics and electromyography (EMG) of the lower limb during quasi-static or dynamic squatting activities. However there is only little information on the comparison of these two squatting conditions. Only one study compared these activities in terms of 3D kinematics, but no information was available on 3D kinetics and EMG. The purpose of this study was to compare simultaneous recordings of 3D kinematics, 3D kinetics and EMG of the lower limb during quasi-static and fast dynamic squats. Methods: Ten subjects were recruited. 3D knee kinematics was recorded with a motion capture system, 3D kinetics was recorded with a force plate, and EMG of 8 muscles was recorded with surface electrodes. Each subject performed a quasi-static squat and several fast dynamic squats from 0° to 70° of knee flexion. Findings: Mean differences between quasi-static and dynamic squats were 1.6° for rotations, 1.8 mm for translations, 38 N ground reaction forces (2.1 % of subjects’ body weight), 6 Nm for torques, 13.0 mm for center of pressure, and 7 µV for EMG (6.3% of the maximum dynamic electromyographic activities ). Some significant differences (P < 0.05) were found in anterior-posterior translation, vertical forces and EMG. Interpretation: All differences found between quasi-static and fast dynamic squats can be considered small. 69.5% of the compared data were equivalent. In conclusion, this study show for the first time that quasi-static and dynamic squatting activities are comparable in terms of 3D kinematics, 3D kinetics and EMG.

Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Gait, Orthopedic Research, Posturography

Suprathreshold Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation as an analog of vestibular dysfunction

In the past we have shown that exposure to increasing amplitudes of Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) induces a corresponding increasing deficit in postural control, cognition and autonomic function. Previous studies have suggested that suprathreshold GVS induces a similar pattern of postural instability as the one observed on bilateral vestibular loss. The aim of the present study was to determine whether different current intensities would affect somatosensory, visual, and vestibular sensory system similarly to patient affected by vestibular deficits. We assessed postural control in unilateral (right and left) and bilateral vestibular loss patients, an aged matched healthy control group, and during pseudorandom binaural bipolar GVS in healthy subjects at one of three current amplitudes (1 mA, 3.5 mA, 5 mA). Balance was assessed with sensory organization test (SOT) that quantifies the effectiveness of vestibular, visual and somatosensory input to postural control. Results showed that GVS significantly affects vestibular control of posture compared to baseline at all current amplitudes, whereas somatosensory and visual performance was unaffected. Vestibular patients showed a significant decrease in vestibular and visual response compared to control. Suprathreshold GVS 5 mA showed a similar large effect size to unilateral and bilateral vestibular loss patients relative to their aged matched control. NASA NCC 9-58 and NNX09AL14G

Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Neuroscience, Posturography