Large postural sways prevent foot tactile information from fading: neurophysiological evidence


  • Fabre Marie
  • Antoine Marine
  • Robitaille Mathieu Germain
  • Ribot-Ciscar Edith
  • Ackerley Rochelle
  • Aimonetti Jean-Marc
  • Chavet Pascale
  • Blouin Jean
  • Simoneau Martin
  • Mouchnino Laurence


  • Balance control
  • Cutaneous plantar inputs
  • EEG
  • Premotor cortex
  • Somatosensory areas

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Cutaneous foot receptors are important for balance control, and their activation during quiet standing depends on the speed and the amplitude of postural oscillations. We hypothesized that the transmission of cutaneous input to the cortex is reduced during prolonged small postural sways due to receptor adaptation during continued skin compression. Central mechanisms would trigger large sways to reactivate the receptors. We compared the amplitude of positive and negative post-stimulation peaks (P 50 N 90) somatosensory cortical potentials evoked by the electrical stimulation of the foot sole during small and large sways in 16 young adults standing still with their eyes closed. We observed greater P 50 N 90 amplitudes during large sways compared with small sways consistent with increased cutaneous transmission during large sways. Postural oscillations computed 200 ms before large sways had smaller amplitudes than those before small sways, providing sustained compression within a small foot sole area. Cortical source analyses revealed that during this interval, the activity of the somatosensory areas decreased, whereas the activity of cortical areas engaged in motor planning (supplementary motor area, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) increased. We concluded that large sways during quiet standing represent self-generated functional behavior aiming at releasing skin compression to reactivate mechanoreceptors. Such balance motor commands create sensory reafference that help control postural sway.

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