Objective: Several reports have shown that the direction of the postural responses induced by vestibular stimulation is affected by the positions of the neck and torso. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the postural responses to vibratory proprioceptive stimulation of the calf muscles are affected by the position of the head and thus by proprioceptive and vestibular information from the neck and head.
Material and methods: Ten normal subjects were exposed to vibratory proprioceptive stimulation of the calf muscles when the head was maintained in five different positions: in a neutral position facing forwards, with the head turned to the right or left sides or with the head tilted backwards or forwards. Body movements were evaluated by analyzing the anteroposterior and lateral torques induced towards the supporting surface.
Results: The analysis showed that only the anteroposterior body sway was significantly affected by the position of the head. The anteroposterior postural responses were primarily increased during the tests with the head tilted backwards or forwards, whereas the postural responses were unaffected by head torsion towards the sides. The lateral responses were primarily affected by vision and not by the position of the head.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that the responses evoked by vibratory proprioceptive stimulation of the calf muscles may be affected by different mechanisms, either by purely proprioceptive information or by an interaction between proprioceptive and vestibular information. Moreover, the increasing difference between the test conditions over time suggests that fatigue of the neck muscles may be one of the factors affecting the responses induced by the perturbations.