Balance problems and falls are common in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) but their cause and nature are not well understood. It is known that MS affects many areas of the central nervous system that can impact postural responses to maintain balance, including the cerebellum and the spinal cord. Cerebellar balance disorders are associated with normal latencies but reduced scaling of postural responses. We therefore examined the latency and scaling of automatic postural responses, and their relationship to somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs), in ten people with MS and imbalance and ten age-, sex-matched, healthy controls. The latency and scaling of postural responses to backward surface translations of five different velocities and amplitudes, and the latency of spinal and supraspinal somatosensory conduction, were examined. Subjects with MS had large, but very delayed automatic postural response latencies compared to controls (161 ± 31 ms vs. 102 ± 21 ms, p < 0.01) and these postural response latencies correlated with the latencies of their spinal SSEPs (r = 0.73, p < 0.01). Subjects with MS also had normal or excessive scaling of postural response amplitude to perturbation velocity and amplitude. Longer latency postural responses were associated with less velocity scaling and more amplitude scaling. Balance deficits in people with MS appear to be caused by slowed spinal somatosensory conduction and not by cerebellar involvement. People with MS appear to compensate for their slowed spinal somatosensory conduction by increasing the amplitude scaling and the magnitude of their postural responses.
- Multiple sclerosis
- Somatosensory evoked potentials
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems