Application of non-linear dynamics analyses to study human movement has increased recently, which necessitates an understanding of how dependent measures may be influenced by experimental design and setup. Quantifying local dynamic stability for a multi-articulated structure such as the spine presents the possibility for estimates to be influenced by positioning of kinematic sensors used to measure spine angular kinematics. Oftentimes researchers will also choose to constrain the spine's movement by physically restraining the pelvis and/or using targets to control movement endpoints. Ten healthy participants were recruited, and asked to perform separate trials of 35 consecutive cycles of spine flexion under both constrained and unconstrained conditions. Electromagnetic sensors that measure three-dimensional angular orientations were positioned over the pelvis and the spinous processes of L3, L1, and T11. Using the pelvic sensor as a reference, each sensor location on the spine was used to obtain a different representation of the three-dimensional spine angular kinematics. Local dynamic stability of each kinematic time-series was determined by calculating the maximum finite-time Lyapunov exponent (λmax). Estimates for λmax were significantly lower (i.e. dynamically more stable) for spine kinematic data obtained from the L3 sensor than those obtained from kinematic data using either the L1 or T11 sensors. Likewise, λmax was lower when the movement was constrained. These results emphasize the importance of proper placement of instrumentation for quantifying local dynamic stability of spine kinematics and are especially relevant for repeated measures designs where data are obtained from the same individual on multiple days.
Keywords: Flexion; Lyapunov exponents; Non-linear dynamics; Spine; Stability.
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