Foot sole and ankle muscle inputs contribute jointly to human erect posture regulation

J Physiol. 2001 May 1;532(Pt 3):869-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.2001.0869e.x.


In order to assess the relative contribution and the interactions of the plantar cutaneous and muscle proprioceptive feedback in controlling human erect posture, single or combined vibratory stimuli were applied to the forefoot areas and to the tendons of the tibialis anterior muscles of nine standing subjects using various vibration frequency patterns (ranging from 20 to 80 Hz). The variations in the centre of foot pressure, ankle angle and the EMG activities of the soleus and tibialis anterior muscles of each subject were recorded and analysed. Separate stimulation of the plantar forefoot zones or the tibialis anterior muscles always resulted in whole-body tilts oppositely directed backwards and forwards, respectively, the amplitude of which was proportional to the vibration frequency. EMG activity of ankle muscles also varied according to the direction of the postural responses. However, the same vibration frequency did not elicit equivalent postural responses: in the low frequency range, tactile stimulation induced stronger postural effects than proprioceptive stimulation, and the converse was the case for the higher frequency range. Under sensory conflict conditions, i.e. foot sole-flexor ankle muscle co-stimulation, the direction of the body tilts also varied according to the difference and the absolute levels of the vibration frequencies. In all cases, the resulting postural shifts always corresponded to the theoretical sum of the isolated effects observed upon vibrating each of these two sensory channels. We proposed that tactile and proprioceptive information from the foot soles and flexor ankle muscles might be co-processed following a vector addition mode to subserve the maintenance of erect stance in a complementary way.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / innervation
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Foot / innervation
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Tendons / innervation
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Touch / physiology
  • Vibration