This study examined the role of feedback from cutaneous mechanoreceptors in the stability of human upright posture. A two-link, one degree of freedom, inverted pendulum model was constructed for the human body with ankle joint torque proportional to the delayed outputs from muscle receptors, joint receptors, and cutaneous mechanoreceptors in the foot. Theoretical analysis and numerical simulations indicated that the use of mechanoreceptive information reduced the frequency range and the maximum peak-peak value of the dynamic response of the system. However, without the use of muscle receptors, the mechanoreceptive feedback could not stabilize the system. In addition, body movement of human subjects was measured when their balanced upright posture was disturbed by a transient, forward/backward movement of a supporting platform. The loss of or change in cutaneous mechanoreceptive sense in their feet was induced by (a) having healthy subjects stand on a soft surface and (b) testing neuropathic patients with loss of vibratory sensation in their feet. The results showed significant increases in frequency range and maximum peak-peak value of ankle rotation and velocity for subjects standing on a soft (vs. hard) surface and for neuropathic patients (vs. age- and gender-matched healthy subjects).
Ge Wu is with the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Vermont, 305 Rowell Building, Burlington, VT 05405. Weifeng Zhao is with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16803.