Neural Consequences of Increasing Body Weight: Evidence from Somatosensory Evoked Potentials and the Frequency-Specificity of Brain Oscillations


  • Lhomond Olivia
  • Teasdale Normand
  • Simoneau Martin
  • Mouchnino Laurence


  • Plantar sole afferents
  • EEG
  • Standing balance

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Previous studies on the control of human balance suggested that increased pressure under the feet, leading to reduced plantar sole mechanoreceptors sensitivity, increases body sway. Although this suggestion is attracting, it is unclear whether increased plantar sole pressure simply reduces the transmission of plantar sole afferent to the cortex or also alters the sensorimotor integrative mechanisms. Here we used electrical stimulation applied under the sole of the foot to probe the sensorimotor mechanisms processing foot mechanoreceptors. Balance control of healthy individuals was assessed either when wearing a loaded vest or in normal-weight condition. In the Loaded condition, we observed decreased cortical activity over the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) for both an early P50-N90 somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) and for oscillatory brain activity within the gamma band (30–80 Hz). These reductions were interpreted as a disrupted early sensory transmission (i.e., decreased early SEP) leading to a decreased perception of plantar sole sensory information (i.e., decreased gamma band power). These early sensory mechanisms for the Loaded condition were associated with an increase in the late P170-N210 SEP and oscillatory brain activity within the beta band (19–24 Hz). These neural signatures involved areas which are engaged in sensorimotor integrative processes (secondary somatosensory cortex (SII) and right temporoparietal junction). Altered early and late sensory processes may result from the increase pressure on the mechanoreceptors of the foot sole and not from postural instability per se. Indeed, postural instability with normal weight condition did not lead to SEP changes.

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