Postural Strategies and Sensory Integration: No Turning Point between Childhood and Adolescence


  • Mallau Sophie
  • Vaugoyeau Marianne
  • Assaiante Christine


  • Vision
  • Postural control
  • Shoulders
  • Pelvis
  • Sensory perception
  • Adolescents
  • Eyes
  • Statistical dispersion

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In this study, we investigated the sensory integration to postural control in children and adolescents from 5 to 15 years of age. We adopted the working hypothesis that considerable body changes occurring during these periods may lead subjects to under-use the information provided by the proprioceptive pathway and over-use other sensory systems such as vision to control their orientation and stabilize their body. It was proposed to determine which maturational differences may exist between the sensory integration used by children and adolescents in order to test the hypothesis that adolescence may constitute a specific phase in the development of postural control. This hypothesis was tested by applying an original protocol of slow oscillations below the detection threshold of the vestibular canal system, which mainly serves to mediate proprioceptive information, to the platform on which the subjects were standing. We highlighted the process of acquiring an accurate sensory and anatomical reference frame for functional movement. We asked children and adolescents to maintain a vertical stance while slow sinusoidal oscillations in the frontal plane were applied to the support at 0.01 Hz (below the detection threshold of the semicircular canal system) and at 0.06 Hz (above the detection threshold of the semicircular canal system) with their eyes either open or closed. This developmental study provided evidence that there are mild differences in the quality of sensory integration relative to postural control in children and adolescents. The results reported here confirmed the predominance of vision and the gradual mastery of somatosensory integration in postural control during a large period of ontogenesis including childhood and adolescence. The youngest as well as the oldest subjects adopted similar qualitative damping and segmental stabilization strategies that gradually improved with age without reaching an adult's level. Lastly, sensory reweighting for postural strategies as assessed by very slow support oscillations presents a linear development without any qualitative turning point between childhood and adolescence.

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