Fingertip contact influences human postural control

Exp Brain Res. 1994;100(3):495-502. doi: 10.1007/BF02738408.


Touch and pressure stimulation of the body surface can strongly influence apparent body orientation, as well as the maintenance of upright posture during quiet stance. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between postural sway and contact forces at the fingertip while subjects touched a rigid metal bar. Subjects were tested in the tandem Romberg stance with eyes open or closed under three conditions of fingertip contact: no contact, touch contact (< 0.98 N of force), and force contact (as much force as desired). Touch contact was as effective as force contact or sight of the surroundings in reducing postural sway when compared to the no contact, eyes closed condition. Body sway and fingertip forces were essentially in phase with force contact, suggesting that fingertip contact forces are physically counteracting body sway. Time delays between body sway and fingertip forces were much larger with light touch contact, suggesting that the fingertip is providing information that allows anticipatory innervation of musculature to reduce body sway. The results are related to observations on precision grip as well as the somatosensory, proprioceptive, and motor mechanisms involved in the reduction of body sway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Pressure
  • Sensory Deprivation
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular