Anticipatory postural adjustments in conditions of postural instability

Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1998 Aug;109(4):350-9. doi: 10.1016/s0924-980x(98)00029-0.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) in standing subjects who performed a standard motor action triggering a standard postural perturbation (releasing a 2.2 kg load from extended arms) in conditions of different stability requirements.

Methods: The degree of stability was varied either by balancing on special boards with long and narrow support beams or by instructions to the subjects. In the first series of experiments 13 subjects stood on the board facing either perpendicular to the beam (instability in a sagittal plane) or along the beam (instability in frontal plane); different widths of the beam were used to vary the degree of instability. During the second series of experiments (6 subjects) inclined and one-legged postures were used to induce instability in sagittal and frontal planes respectively. EMG activity of rectus abdominis, erector spinae, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, tibialis anterior, and soleus muscles were recorded. Statistical methods included repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with direction of instability and level of instability being major factors, descriptive statistics, and post hoc Student's t tests.

Results: The integral measure of changes in the background electromyographic activity of postural muscles during APAs depended on two factors related to the postural task: (1) standing on a platform with a narrow support area led to an attenuation of the APAs; and (2) these effects were stronger when instability was in a sagittal rather than in the frontal plane. The anticipatory component in the displacement of the center of pressure did not show a clear attenuation that would depend on the direction of instability.

Conclusions: We suggest a hypothesis that, in conditions of high stability demands, the central nervous system may suppress APAs as a protection against their possible destabilizing effects. These effects are more pronounced when the direction of an expected perturbation is in the plane of instability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rectus Abdominis / physiology