Balance control and adaptation during vibratory perturbations in middle-aged and elderly humans

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004 May;91(5-6):595-603. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-1013-1. Epub 2004 Feb 17.


The objective was to investigate if healthy elderly people respond and adapt differently to postural disturbances compared to middle-aged people. Thirty middle-aged (mean age 37.8 years, range 24-56 years) and forty healthy elderly subjects (mean age 74.6 years, range 66-88 years) were tested with posturography. Body sway was evoked by applying pseudorandom vibratory stimulation to the belly of the gastrocnemius muscles of both legs simultaneously. The tests were performed both with eyes open and eyes closed. The anteroposterior body sway was measured with a force platform and analyzed with a method that considers the adaptive changes of posture and stimulation responses. The results showed that middle-aged people generally used a different postural control strategy as compared to the elderly. The elderly responded more rapidly to vibratory perturbation, used more high-frequency (>0.1 Hz) motions and the motion dynamics had a higher degree of complexity. Moreover, the elderly had diminished ability to use visual information to improve balance control. Altogether, despite having an effective postural control adaptation similar to that of middle-aged people, the elderly had more difficulty in withstanding balance perturbations. These findings suggest that the balance control deterioration associated with aging cannot be fully compensated for by postural control adaptation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Vibration