Motor Control

Matching participants for triceps surae muscle-tendon unit mechanical properties eliminates age-related differences in drop jump performance

In the current study, we aimed to determine if differences in drop jump height or motor task execution strategy between young and middle-aged adults exist, when triceps surae MTU capacities (muscle strength and tendon stiffness) were matched. The triceps surae MTU biomechanical properties of 29 middle-aged and 26 younger adults were assessed during isometric voluntary ankle plantarflexion contractions of the dominant leg using a custom-made dynamometer and ultrasonography simultaneously. The 12 young adults with the lowest triceps surae muscle strength and the 12 middle-aged adults with the greatest muscle strength then completed a series of drop jumps from different heights. Ground contact time, average vertical ground reaction force, average mechanical power and jumping height were recorded. Younger and middle-aged adults attained comparable jumping heights independent of the drop jump height. There were significant age effects on ground contact time and average vertical ground reaction force during ground contact phase, with the middle-aged adults showing higher ground contact times but lower forces, leading to a significant age effect on mechanical power. Significant correlations were found between triceps surae MTU capacities and drop jump height. The results of the current study demonstrate that when triceps surae MTU capacities are matched, young and middle-aged adults show comparable performance of a jumping task, despite having different motor strategies. Finally, the results suggest that neuromuscular factors other than maximum isometric strength and tendon stiffness may influence motor task execution strategy during jumping.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science


ESTIMATION OF OPTIMAL STIMULUS AMPLITUDE FOR BALANCE TRAINING USING ELECTRICAL STIMULATION OF THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM

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


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