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Referent control of side-to-side body-weight transfer during standing and stepping in adults.

Neuroscience 2024 May 17
Research suggests that locomotion may be primarily caused by shifting stable body balance from one location in the environment to another with subsequent rhythmical muscle activation by the central pattern generator (CPG), constituting a multi-level control system. All levels interact with environmental forces affected by proprioceptive and vestibular reflexes as well as vision. A similar multi-level control schema is likely used to shift body balance laterally when the body weight is rhythmically transferred from side-to-side. In order to do so, the system shifts a specific body posture in space. This body posture is referred to as the threshold or referent body posture, R, at which all muscles involved can be at rest but are activated depending on the deflection of the actual body posture, Q, from R. This concept has previously been investigated for forward and backward locomotion. The purpose of the present study was to verify if it was also applicable to locomotor tasks in other directions such as sidestepping. We predicted that during sidestepping, the actual and referent posture can transiently match each other bringing the activity of multiple muscles to a minimum. The existence of such minima was demonstrated in healthy adults performing three locomotor tasks involving shifts of the body weight from side-to-side thus further supporting the validity of the multi-level control scheme of locomotion.

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