Noise-enhanced human balance control

Phys Rev Lett. 2002 Dec 2;89(23):238101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.89.238101. Epub 2002 Nov 13.


Noise can enhance the detection and transmission of weak signals in certain nonlinear systems, via a mechanism known as stochastic resonance. Here we show that input noise can be used to improve motor control in humans. Specifically, we show that the postural sway of both young and elderly individuals during quiet standing can be significantly reduced by applying subsensory mechanical noise to the feet. We further demonstrate with input noise a trend towards the reduction of postural sway in elderly subjects to the level of young subjects. These results suggest that noise-based devices, such as randomly vibrating shoe inserts, may enable people to overcome functional difficulties due to age-related sensory loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Noise*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Stochastic Processes