The contribution of mechanoreceptive sensation on stability and adaptation in the young and elderly

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009 Jan;105(2):167-73. doi: 10.1007/s00421-008-0886-4. Epub 2008 Oct 17.


The aim was to determine the contributions of foot mechanoreceptive sensation, vision and their interaction on postural stability during quiet stance, balance perturbations and adaptive adjustments. Postural stability was measured as anteroposterior torque variance in Young (n = 25, average age = 25.1 years) and Elderly subjects (n = 16, average age = 71.5 years) during repeated calf vibrations while standing with eyes open and closed. Sensation, recorded using vibration perception and tactile sensitivity, was poorer in elderly than young subjects. Sensation was of low importance for stability during quiet stance and the first 50 s of repeated vibrations, but was associated with stability during the last three 50 s periods of balance perturbations, suggesting that the mechanoreceptive sensation affected how well postural control could adapt to repeated balance perturbations. The findings suggest that clinicians should investigate whether patients with balance problems and poor adaptation have mechanoreceptive sensation deficits.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / physiology*
  • Female
  • Foot / innervation
  • Foot / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Torque
  • Vestibular Function Tests
  • Visual Perception / physiology