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Surprisingly little attention has been devoted to the role played by the intrinsic muscles of the human foot. The aim of this study was to quantify the capabilities of the flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) muscle to contribute to upright postural control. The approaches consisted of analysis of the effects of FDB contraction elicited by external electrical stimulation and quantification of the magnitude of FDB torque generation. The results showed the FDB can produce significant changes in static posture by itself as shown by changes in the center of pressure. Moreover, the FDB contribution to counterbalance the gravity’s toppling force was estimated at around 14.5% of the total required active torque at the ankle to keep the subject from falling. A posteriori functional analysis during horizontal perturbations showed high and self-sustained activity of FDB. These results demonstrated that the FDB has a significant capability of contributing to postural control.
The authors are with the Neuroscience Program and Escola Politécnica, University of São Paulo (USP), São Paulo, Brazil.