Group-level cortical and muscular connectivity during perturbations to walking and standing balance

Neuroimage. 2019 Sep;198:93-103. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.05.038. Epub 2019 May 18.


Maintaining balance is a complex process requiring multisensory processing and coordinated muscle activation. Previous studies have indicated that the cortex is directly involved in balance control, but less information is known about cortical flow of signals for balance. We studied source-localized electrocortical effective connectivity dynamics of healthy young subjects (29 subjects: 14 male and 15 female) walking and standing with both visual and physical perturbations to their balance. The goal of this study was to quantify differences in group-level corticomuscular connectivity responses to sensorimotor perturbations during walking and standing. We hypothesized that perturbed visual input during balance would transiently decrease connectivity between occipital and parietal areas due to disruptive visual input during sensory processing. We also hypothesized that physical pull perturbations would increase cortical connections to central sensorimotor areas because of higher sensorimotor integration demands. Our findings show decreased occipito-parietal connectivity during visual rotations and widespread increases in connectivity during pull perturbations focused on central areas, as expected. We also found evidence for communication from cortex to muscles during perturbed balance. These results show that sensorimotor perturbations to balance alter cortical networks and can be quantified using effective connectivity estimation.

Keywords: Balance perturbation; Effective connectivity; Electroencephalography; Independent component analysis; Virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Touch Perception*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult