There is evidence that adolescence is a critical period in development, most likely involving important modifications of the body schema and of the sensorimotor representations. The present study addressed this issue, by investigating the differences between adolescents and adults regarding the integration of proprioceptive information at both perceptual and postural levels and the visual recognition of human movement. Proprioceptive integration was examined using muscle-tendon vibration that evoked either a postural response or an illusory sensation of movement. The ability to recognize human movement was investigated from a paradigm where the participants had to discern between human movements performed with and without gravity. The study produced three main findings. First, the adolescents had larger postural responses to tendon vibrations than the adults, with visual information enabling them to reduce this exaggerated postural reaction. Second, the adolescents had a greater illusory perception of movement compared with the adults. Third, the adolescents had the same perceptual ability as adults in the human movement perception task. In conclusion, we were able to highlight notable differences between adolescents and young adults, which confirms the late maturation of multisensory integration for postural control and the privileged visual contribution to postural control.
The authors are with Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives (UMR 7291), Marseille, France.