Perturbation of the postural control system induced by muscular fatigue

Philippe Corbeil, Jean-Sébastien Blouin, François Bégin, Vincent Nougier, Normand Teasdale
Gait & Posture 2003, 18 (2): 92-100
In this experiment, we induced muscular fatigue of ankle plantar-flexors to examine how it deteriorates the regulation of bipedal quiet upright standing. Postural stability was assessed in conditions with and without vision over 60 s period to examine not only classical postural variables (time- and frequency-domain analyses), but also structural variables (stabilogram-diffusion analysis). Muscular fatigue was induced with repeated plantar-flexion of both legs. With muscular fatigue, subjects exhibited an increased postural sway (faster center of pressure (CP) velocity, and greater CP mean and median frequency) and a decreased long-term scaling exponent compared with the control conditions. The fatigue conditions, however, did not modify the range of oscillations and the variability of the postural oscillations around the mean position of CP. The effects of muscular fatigue were similar with eyes open and eyes closed. These results suggest that fatigue did induce some changes in the control mode of postural stability, but the detection/action capabilities of the sensorimotor system remained partly efficient when the ankle plantar-flexors were fatigued. Furthermore, the decreased long-term scaling exponent observed with fatigue suggests that the control of upright stance operates in a less stochastic and more antipersistent manner when fatigue is present (i.e. past and future behaviors were more negatively correlated and thus more tightly regulated). Altogether, the present results suggest that, compared with the no-fatigue conditions, fatigue places higher demands on the postural control system by increasing the frequency of actions needed to regulate the upright stance.

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