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The hypothesis that persons with Down syndrome are likely to trade mechanical efficacy of motor patterns for safety was tested in a study of postural adjustments associated with fast voluntary movements. Control subjects and subjects with Down syndrome performed bilateral shoulder flexion and extension movements “as fast as possible” while standing on a force platform. Anticipatory changes in the background activity of postural muscles were seen in both groups of subjects. Subjects with Down syndrome demonstrated simultaneous EMG bursts in postural “agonist-antagonist” pairs. Subjects with Down syndrome also demonstrated patterns of deviations in the major postural joints, suggesting that they were using a different strategy which may be a correlate of “clumsiness.” It was concluded that practice in conditions of changing components of a motor task is the most promising way to encourage the central nervous system of persons with Down syndrome to search for alternative strategies and improve these individuals' ability to solve everyday motor problems.
Alexander S. Aruin is with the Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802. Gil L. Almeida is with the University of Campinas, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil 13100.