Non-linear stimulus-response behavior of the human stance control system is predicted by optimization of a system with sensory and motor noise

Herman Van Der Kooij, Robert J. Peterka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


We developed a theory of human stance control that predicted (1) how subjects re-weight their utilization of proprioceptive and graviceptive orientation information in experiments where eyes closed stance was perturbed by surface-tilt stimuli with different amplitudes, (2) the experimentally observed increase in body sway variability (i.e. the "remnant" body sway that could not be attributed to the stimulus) with increasing surface-tilt amplitude, (3) neural controller feedback gains that determine the amount of corrective torque generated in relation to sensory cues signaling body orientation, and (4) the magnitude and structure of spontaneous body sway. Responses to surface-tilt perturbations with different amplitudes were interpreted using a feedback control model to determine control parameters and changes in these parameters with stimulus amplitude. Different combinations of internal sensory and/or motor noise sources were added to the model to identify the properties of noise sources that were able to account for the experimental remnant sway characteristics. Various behavioral criteria were investigated to determine if optimization of these criteria could predict the identified model parameters and amplitude-dependent parameter changes. Robust findings were that remnant sway characteristics were best predicted by models that included both sensory and motor noise, the graviceptive noise magnitude was about ten times larger than the proprioceptive noise, and noise sources with signal-dependent properties provided better explanations of remnant sway. Overall results indicate that humans dynamically weight sensory system contributions to stance control and tune their corrective responses to minimize the energetic effects of sensory noise and external stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-778
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Balance
  • Motor noise
  • Optimal control
  • Sensorimotor control
  • Sensory noise
  • Stance control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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