The influence of stance width on frontal plane postural dynamics and coordination in human bipedal stance was studied. We tested the hypothesis that when subjects adopt a narrow stance width, they will rely heavily on nonlinear control strategies and coordinated counter-phase upper and lower body motion to limit center-of-mass (CoM) deviations from upright; as stance increases, the use of these strategies will diminish. Freestanding frontal plane body sway was evoked through continuous pseudorandom rotations of the support surface on which subjects stood with various stimulus amplitudes. Subjects were either eyes open (EO) or closed (EC) and adopted various stance widths. Upper body, lower body, and CoM kinematics were summarized using root-mean-square and peak-to-peak measures, and dynamic behavior was characterized using frequency-response and impulse-response functions. In narrow stance, CoM frequency-response function gains were reduced with increasing stimulus amplitude and in EO compared with EC; in wide stance, gain reductions were much less pronounced. Results show that the narrow stance postural system is nonlinear across stimulus amplitude in both EO and EC conditions, whereas the wide stance postural system is more linear. The nonlinearity in narrow stance is likely caused by an amplitude-dependent sensory reweighting mechanism. Finally, lower body and upper body sway were approximately inphase at low frequencies (<1 Hz) and out-of-phase at high frequencies (>1 Hz) across all stance widths, and results were therefore inconsistent with the hypothesis that subjects made greater use of coordinated counter-phase upper and lower body motion in narrow compared with wide stance conditions.
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