Titre : When mechanical engineering inspired from physiology improves postural‐related somatosensory processes
Chloé Sutter, Marie Fabre, Francesco Massi, Jean Blouin & Laurence Mouchnino
Résumé : Despite numerous studies uncovering the neural signature of tactile processing, tactile afferent inputs relating to the contact surface has not been studied so far. Foot tactile receptors being the first stimulated by the relative movement of the foot skin and the underneath moving support play an important role in the sensorimotor transformation giving rise to a postural reaction. A biomimetic surface, i.e., complying with the skin dermatoglyphs and tactile receptors characteristics should facilitate the cortical processes. Participants (n = 15) stood either on a biomimetic surface or on two control surfaces, when a sudden acceleration of the supporting surface was triggered. A larger intensity and shorter somatosensory response (i.e., SEP) was evoked by the biomimetic surface motion. This result and the associated decrease of theta activity (5–7 Hz) over the posterior parietal cortex suggest that increasing the amount of sensory input processing could make the balance task less challenging when standing on a biomimetic surface. This key point was confirmed by a second experiment (n = 21) where a cognitive task was added, hence decreasing the attentional resources devoted to the balance motor task. Greater efciency of the postural reaction was observed while standing on the biomimetic than on the control surfaces.