This study investigates the effects of parkinsonism and dopamine replacement therapy (levodopa) on centrally initiated postural activity preceding rising onto the toes. The electromyographic (EMG) and force magnitude, scaling, sequencing, and postural stabilization were compared when rising-to-toes under two conditions, slow/low versus fast/high, for parkinsonian patients and elderly control subjects. Parkinsonian subjects were tested after withholding their levodopa medication for 12-16 h and again 1 h after taking their medication when parkinsonian signs were diminished. Parkinsonian subjects showed reduced magnitudes and delayed timing of the postural and voluntary components of the rise-to-toes task, as if they had difficulty turning off the postural, tibialis anterior (TIB) component and initiating the voluntary, gastrocnemius (GAS) component. Dopamine improved the relative timing, as well as the magnitude of both postural and voluntary components of rise-to-toes. Although the magnitude of dorsiflexion torque was smaller for parkinsonian subjects ON and OFF than for healthy elderly controls, the parkinsonian subjects showed intact scaling of the magnitude of postural activity. Parkinsonian subjects do not perform the rise-to-toes task like normal subjects who are instructed to rise slowly; the relative timing of TIB and GAS activation was different even at comparable speeds of performance. Parkinsonian subjects, both ON and oFF, exhibited greater risk of falling than elderly control subjects when rising to toes. This increased risk of falling was reflected in a smaller safety margin between the peak center of mass (CoM) and peak center of pressure (CoP) during the task. The magnitude of mean postural dorsiflexion torque in the rise-to-toes task was highly correlated with a clinical rating scale of gait and balance, suggesting that force control is a critical factor influencing postural control in patients with Parkinson's disease.
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