When Standing on a Moving Support, Cutaneous Inputs Provide Sufficient Information to Plan the Anticipatory Postural Adjustments for Gait Initiation

  • Mouchnino Laurence
  • Blouin Jean

ART

Gait initiation is preceded by initial postural adjustments whose goal is to set up the condition required for the execution of the focal stepping movement. For instance, the step is preceded by a shift of the body's center of mass towards the stance foot unloading the stepping leg. This displacement is produced by exerting forces on the ground (i.e., thrust) while the body is still motionless. The purpose of this study was to identify whether the mere cutaneous inputs from the feet soles evoked by a lateral translation of the support could be used to scale the initial postural adjustments. Participants stood with their eyes closed on a force platform that could be moved laterally with a low acceleration (between 0.14 m/s 2 and 0.30 m/ s 2) to reach a constant velocity of 0.02 m/s. This translation resulted in a change in the somatosensory cues from the feet soles without modifying vestibular inputs. Participants were instructed to produce a step with the right foot as soon as they felt the platform start to move (on either side) or heard an auditory cue. In the latter case, the platform stayed stationary. We found that the thrust duration was lengthened when the platform moved towards the supporting foot. In this condition, the cutaneous stimulation provided information related to a body shift towards the stepping leg. This increased thrust duration likely helped overcoming the non-functional body shift perceived towards the stepping leg. This result highlights the accuracy with which the actual standing position can be determined from foot sole cutaneous cues in the absence of visual and vestibular or proprioceptive inputs.