Independent Walking as a Major Skill for the Development of Anticipatory Postural Control: Evidence from Adjustments to Predictable Perturbations

  • Cignetti Fabien
  • Zedka Milan
  • Vaugoyeau Marianne
  • Assaiante Christine

  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Postural control
  • Pelvis
  • Young adults
  • Pendulums
  • Electromyography
  • Walking
  • Development
  • Infants
  • Kinematic analysis
  • EMG


Although there is suggestive evidence that a link exists between independent walking and the ability to establish anticipatory strategy to stabilize posture, the extent to which this skill facilitates the development of anticipatory postural control remains largely unknown. Here, we examined the role of independent walking on the infants’ ability to anticipate predictable external perturbations. Non-walking infants, walking infants and adults were sitting on a platform that produced continuous rotation in the frontal plane. Surface electromyography (EMG) of neck and lower back muscles and the positions of markers located on the platform, the upper body and the head were recorded. Results from cross-correlation analysis between rectified and filtered EMGs and platform movement indicated that although muscle activation already occurred before platform movement in non-walking infants, only walking infants demonstrated an adult-like ability for anticipation. Moreover, results from further cross-correlation analysis between segmental angular displacement and platform movement together with measures of balance control at the end-points of rotation of the platform evidenced two sorts of behaviour. The adults behaved as a non-rigid non-inverted pendulum, rather stabilizing head in space, while both the walking and non-walking infants followed the platform, behaving as a rigid inverted pendulum. These results suggest that the acquisition of independent walking plays a role in the development of anticipatory postural control, likely improving the internal model for the sensorimotor control of posture. However, despite such improvement, integrating the dynamics of an external object, here the platform, within the model to maintain balance still remains challenging in infants.