Effect of initial lean on scaling of postural feedback responses

Sukyung Park, Fay B. Horak, Arthur D. Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined how the central nervous system adjusts postural responses to an increased postural challenge due to an initial lean. Postural feedback responses scale to accommodate biomechanical constraints, such as an allowable ankle joint torque. Initial forward leaning, which is observed among the elderly who are inactive or afraid of falling, brings subjects near to the limit of stability and makes the biomechanical constraints more difficult to obey. We hypothesized that the central nervous system is aware of body dynamics and restrains postural responses when subjects initially lean forward. To test this hypothesis, fast backwards perturbations of various magnitudes were applied to 12 healthy young subjects (3 male, 9 female) aged 20 to 32 years. The subjects were instructed to stand quietly on a hydraulic servo-controlled force platform with their arms crossed over their chests, then to recover from a perturbation by returning to their upright position, without stepping or lifting their heels off the ground, if possible. Initially, the subjects were either standing upright or leaning forward. The force platform was movable in the translational direction and programmed to move backward with various ramp displacements ranging from 1.2 to 15 cm, all with the duration of 275 msec. For each trial, the kinematics and ground reaction force data were recorded, then used to compute the net joint torques, employing a least squares inverse dynamics method. Optimization methods were used to identify a set of equivalent feedback control gains for each trial so that the biomechanical model incorporating this feedback control would reproduce the empirical response. The results showed that the kinematics, joint torque, and feedback gains gradually scaled as a function of the perturbation magnitude before they reached the biomechanical constraint, and the scaling became more severe with an initial forward lean. For example, the model suggested that the magnitude of the ankle joint angle feedback to ankle torque was smaller in the leaning trials than in the initially upright trials, as if the subjects experienced a larger postural perturbation in the leaning trials. These results imply that the central nervous system restrained the postural responses to accommodate the additional biomechanical constraint imposed by the forward posture, thereby suggesting that the central nervous system is aware of body dynamics and biomechanical constraints. The scaling of the postural feedback gains with the perturbation magnitude and initial lean indicates that the postural control can be interpreted as a feedback scheme with scalable gains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-147
Number of pages6
JournalKey Engineering Materials
Issue numberI
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005


  • Feedback gain
  • Initial lean
  • Posture
  • Scaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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