In the current study, we adopted the hypothesis that the body scheme disturbances occurring during adolescence might lead subjects to transiently neglect proprioceptive information and that adolescents might rely more strongly on vision to control their orientation and stabilize their body. To check this point, we asked adolescents 14–15 years to maintain vertical stance while very slow sinusoidal oscillations in the frontal plane were applied to the supporting platform at 0.01 Hz (below the detection threshold of the semicircular canal system) and at 0.06 Hz (above) with the eyes open and closed. Two postural components, orientation and segmental stabilization, were analyzed at the head, shoulder, trunk, and pelvis levels. At the lowest frequency without vision, the performances of adolescents were much less efficient than those of adults. Moreover, this study showed that vision plays a predominant role in adolescents’ control of orientation and body stabilization. At 0.06 Hz without vision, a clearcut difference was observed between the strategies used by girls and boys; specifically, the maturation of the segmental stabilization processes was found to be more advanced in girls than in boys. However, no such difference was observed at 0.01 Hz. Lastly, comparisons between the data obtained in adolescents and those previously obtained in young adults (Vaugoyeau, Viel, Amblard, Azulay, & Assaiante, 2008) clearly show that adolescents use different postural strategies and that they are not yet capable of reaching comparable postural performance levels to those observed in adults. Because adolescents were not able to use the proprioceptive information available to improve their postural control, we concluded that they showed a maturational lag in comparison with adults. This suggests that the mechanisms underlying postural control are still maturing during adolescence, which might constitute a transient period of proprioceptive neglect in sensory integration of postural control.
The authors are with the Development and Pathology of Action Group, Laboratory of Integrative and Adaptive Neurosciences, University of Provence and CNRS, 13331 Marseille Cedex 03, France.