Foam posturography: standing on foam is not equivalent to standing with decreased rapidly adapting mechanoreceptive sensation

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Feb;208(4):519-27. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2498-6. Epub 2010 Dec 1.


Standing on a foam surface is believed to exaggerate balance deficits by decreasing the reliability of somatosensory information from cutaneous mechanoreceptors on the plantar soles (i.e. base of feet) and by altering the effectiveness of ankle torque. The aim was to further document the nature of foam posturography testing by comparing between standing on foam and standing with decreased Rapidly Adapting Mechanoreceptive Sensation (RAMS). Sixteen healthy adults (mean age 20.8 years) were tested with posturography, standing with eyes open and closed on a solid surface and on foam, with and without decreased plantar RAMS. Standing balance was measured as torque variance and further analyzed by being divided into three spectral categories. Plantar cutaneous hypothermic anesthesia by ice-cooling was used to decrease RAMS. Plantar mechanoreceptive sensation was precisely determined with tactile sensitivity and vibration perception tests. Vibration perception was significantly decreased by hypothermic anesthesia, but tactile sensitivity was not. The anterior-posterior torque variance was significantly larger for frequencies less than 0.1 Hz under eyes closed conditions when standing on a solid surface with decreased RAMS compared to normal sensation. No effect of decreased RAMS was seen with eyes open on a solid surface, nor on foam with eyes open or closed. Decreased RAMS produced body sway responses on a solid surface that were different in spectral composition, amplitude, direction and that responded differently to vision compared with standing on foam. Hence, this study showed that RAMS contributes to postural control but reduction in RAMS does not produce a similar challenge as standing on foam.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biofeedback, Psychology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Foot / blood supply
  • Foot / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced
  • Ischemia / psychology
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Surface Properties
  • Touch / physiology
  • Vibration
  • Young Adult