A number of factors are likely to play a major role in the process of generation of anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs). Among them are the magnitude and direction of an expected perturbation, properties of a voluntary action associated with the perturbation, and features of the postural task such as a body's configuration prior to the action. The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of body configuration on APAs. Experiments were performed on 8 healthy subjects performing fast bilateral shoulder extension movements while standing. Body configuration was modified by instructions to the subjects to stand vertically or with a forward upper body bend varying from 15 to 60°. The electrical activity of postural muscles and displacements of the center of pressure were recorded. Results indicated that APAs were modified with changes in the angular position of the upper body. Decreased anticipatory activation was seen in rectus abdominis and rectus femoris, while increased anticipatory inhibition was observed in erecteor spinae and biceps femoris across conditions with forward bend. As a result, the total anticipatory activity of muscles in a muscle pair in series with a forward bend showed only slight modulation as compared to vertical posture. These results suggest that the CNS uses reorganization of the anticipatory activity of postural muscles by compensating for the changes in APAs of individual muscles in a muscle pair in such a way that the overall anticipatory activity of the muscle pair stays unchanged. Such compensation in counteracting the expected mechanical effects of the perturbation is used to accommodate both changes in the length of postural muscles and diminished stability of the body due to forward bend.
The author is with the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612 and Marionjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, Wheaton, IL 60187.