This study examines the roles of somatosensory and vestibular information in the coordination of postural responses. The role of somatosensory information was examined by comparing postural responses of healthy control subjects prior to and following somatosensory loss due to hypoxic anesthesia of the feet and ankles. The role of vestibular information was evaluated by comparing the postural responses of control subjects and patients with bilateral vestibular loss. Postural responses were quantified by measuring 1) spatial and temporal characteristics of leg and trunk EMG activation; 2) ankle, knee, and hip joint kinematics, and 3) surface forces in response to anterior and posterior surface translations under different visual and surface conditions. Results showed that neither vestibular nor somatosensory loss resulted in delayed or disorganized postural responses. However, both types of sensory deficits altered the type of postural response selected under a given set of conditions. Somatosensory loss resulted in an increased hip strategy for postural correction, similar to the movement strategy used by control subjects while standing across a shortened surface. Vestibular loss resulted in a normal ankle strategy but lack of a hip strategy, even when required for the task of maintaining equilibrium on a shortened surface. Neither somatosensory nor vestibular loss resulted in difficulty in utilizing remaining sensory information for orientation during quiet stance. These results support the hypothesis that cutaneous and joint somatosensory information from the feet and ankles may play an important role in assuring that the form of postural movements are appropriate for the current biomechanical constraints of the surface and/or foot. The results also suggest that vestibular information is necessary in controlling equilibrium in a task requiring use of the hip strategy. Thus, both somatosensory and vestibular sensory information play important roles in the selection of postural movement strategies appropriate for their environmental contexts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas