1. We investigated the role of the vestibular system in postural control by combining galvanic vestibular stimulation (0.2-0.5 mA) with platform translations in standing subjects. Vestibular stimulation delivered 500 ms before and continuously during the platform translation produced little change in the earliest center of pressure (COP) and center of mass (COM) movements in response to platform translations, but resulted in large changes during the execution of the postural movement and in the final equilibrium position. 2. Vestibular stimulation produced anterior or posterior shifts in the position of COP and COM, depending on the polarity of the galvanic current. These shifts were larger during platform translations than during quiet stance. The peak of these shifts in COP and COM occurred at 1.5-2.5 s after the onset of platform translation, and increased in magnitude with increasing platform velocity. The final equilibrium positions of COP and COM were also shifted, but these shifts were smaller and not dependent on platform velocity. 3. These results imply that a tonic step of galvanic current to the vestibular system can change the final equilibrium position for an automatic postural response. Furthermore, these results indicate that the vestibular system may play a larger role in interpreting sensory reafference during postural movements, and especially during fast postural movements, than in controlling quiet stance. Finally, these results indicate that the vestibular system does not play a critical role in triggering the earliest postural responses, but it may be critical in establishing an internal reference for verticality.
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