Current research in biology and physiology has unequivocally demonstrated the significance of variability for the optimal functioning of healthy and adaptable systems. Different pathologies are characterized by reductions in complexity of organization, often signified by loss of variability and adaptability. It is argued that the traditional perspective on biology in general and movement science in particular that tended to associate noise and variability with performance decrements and pathology is no longer tenable. Tools and methodologies that have emerged from the dynamical systems perspective to coordination and control are discussed in the context of postural control and transitions in interlimb coordination and locomotion. First, it is shown that variability can play a functional role in the detection and exploration of stability boundaries during balance control. Second, pattern transitions are characterized by increased variability in movement coordination dynamics. Under conditions of movement pathologies, such as in Parkinson’s disease, reductions in variability in coordination dynamics clearly identify movement coordination and transition problems so characteristic for these patients. It is concluded that the relation between variability and stability is complex and that variability cannot be equated with instability without knowledge of the underlying movement dynamics.
Richard E.A. van Emmerik and Erwin E.H. van Wegen
Bryan C. Heiderscheit, Joseph Hamill and Richard E.A. van Emmerik
The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether individuals with patellofemoral pain (PFP) display a reduction in intralimb joint coordination variability compared to nonimpaired persons. In addition, it was hypothesized that the variability of the stride characteristics would be similar between groups. Eight individuals with unilateral PFP and 8 nonimpaired participants ran on a treadmill at a fixed (2.68 m·s–1) and preferred speed while stride characteristics and 3-D kinematics of the bilateral lower extremities were recorded. Intralimb coordination variability was measured using a vector coding technique applied to relative motion plots of various joint couplings. The PFP group displayed greater stride length variability during running at the preferred speed. However, this was not the case during running at the fixed speed. When averaging across the entire stride cycle, coordination variability for all joint couplings was consistent between the two groups. However, further analysis about heel-strike revealed reduced joint coordination variability for the thigh rotation/leg rotation coupling of the PFP group’s injured limb compared to that of the nonimpaired group. With the exception of the transverse plane rotations at heel-strike, it would appear that the level of pain experienced by the PFP participants may not be great enough to produce a change in the intralimb coordination patterns during running.
Molly B. Johnson and Richard E.A. Van Emmerik
Sensory feedback from the vestibular system and neck muscle stretch receptors is critical for the regulation of postural control. The postural relationship of the head to the trunk is a major factor determining the integration of sensory feedback and can be interfered with by varying head orientation. This study assessed how 60-s of standing with the head neutral, flexed, or extended impacted postural stability during upright stance and during forward lean in 13 healthy participants (26 ±5 years old). During both quiet upright stance and maximal forward lean, head extension increased postural center of pressure (COP) velocity and decreased the COP time-to-contact the anterior stability boundary compared with the head neutral condition. Head flexion did not differ from head neutral for either of the stance conditions. This study demonstrates that interfering with the head-trunk relationship by adopting extended, but not flexed, head orientations interferes with postural control that may impact postural stability during both quiet upright stance and maximal forward lean conditions.
Scott W. Ducharme and Richard E.A. van Emmerik
In human locomotion, the magnitude of gait variability is a strong predictor of fall risk and frailty due to aging and disease. Beyond variability magnitude, the past two decades have provided emerging alternative methodologies for studying biological variability. Specifically, coordination variability has been found to be critically important within a healthy, adaptive system. While many activities aim to minimize end-point variability, greater coordination variability indicates a more flexible system, and is greater in experts compared to novices, or healthy compared to diseased individuals. Finally, variability structure (i.e., fractal dynamics) may describe the overall adaptive capacity of the locomotor system. We provide empirical support that fractal dynamics are associated with step length symmetry during challenging split-belt treadmill walking. Individuals whose fractal scaling approached 1/f fractal scaling during constrained walking also exhibited the best gait adaptability performance. Importantly, this relation between fractality and gait adaptability was not observed in unperturbed preferred speed walking.
Saunders N. Whittlesey, Richard E.A. van Emmerik and Joseph Hamill
Many studies have assumed that the swing phase of human walking at preferred velocity is largely passive and thus highly analogous to the swing of an unforced pendulum. In other words, while swing-phase joint moments are generally nonzero during swing, it was assumed that they were either zero or at least negligibly small compared to gravity. While neglect of joint moments does not invalidate a study by default, it remains that the limitations of such an assumption have not been explored thoroughly. This paper makes five arguments that the swing phase cannot be passive, using both original data and the literature: (1) Computer simulations of the swing phase require muscular control to be accurate. (2) Swing-phase joint moments, while smaller than those during stance, are still greater than those due to gravity. (3) Gravity accounts for a minority of the total kinetics of a swing phase. (4) The kinetics due to gravity do not have the pattern needed to develop a normal swing phase. (5) There is no correlation between pendular swing times and human walking periods in overground walking. The conclusion of this paper is that the swing phase must be an actively controlled process, and should be assumed to be passive only when a study does not require a quantitative result. This conclusion has significant implications for many areas of gait research, including clinical study, control theory, and mechanical modeling.
Jebb G. Remelius and Richard E.A. van Emmerik
This study investigated timing and coordination during the swing phase of swing leg, body center of mass (CoM) and head during walking people with multiple sclerosis (MS; n = 19) and controls (n = 19). The MS group showed differences in swing phase timing at all speeds. At imposed but not preferred speeds, the MS group had less time to prepare for entry into the unstable equilibrium, as the CoM entered this phase of swing earlier. Time-to-contact coupling, quantifying the coordination between the CoM and the swing foot, was not different between groups. The projection of head motion on the ground occurred earlier after toeoff and was positioned closer to the body in the MS group, illustrating increased reliance on visual exproprioception in which vision of the body in relation to the surface of support is established. Finally, prospective control, linking head movements to the swing foot time-to-contact and next step landing area, was impaired in the MS group at higher gait speeds.
Pedro Paulo Deprá, Avelino Amado and Richard E.A. van Emmerik
The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between postural regulation and tracking accuracy under static and moving visual target conditions in unipedal and bipedal standing postures. Postural time-to-contact stability boundaries decreased under more challenging visual target conditions for the unipedal posture, but this decrease was associated with lower visual tracking error. During bipedal support, there was independent control of the head and foot center of pressure, as higher frequencies at the head during the static visual task were associated with longer time-to-contact. These results demonstrate that decreased time-to-contact stability boundaries is a functional adaptation in postural tasks requiring visual control and provide evidence of the dependency of postural control on the nature of the suprapostural task.
Erwin E.H. van Wegen, Richard E.A. van Emmerik, Robert C. Wagenaar and Terry Ellis
Postural instability is a major problem in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). We examined balance control in PD by using center of pressure (CP) variability and time-to-contact to investigate boundary relevant postural control behavior under quiet stance leaning conditions. Postural orientation was manipulated by having patients (n = 10) and healthy older controls (n = 7)lean Forward and backward with varying degrees of lean on a force platform. The subjects were instructed to lean forward or backward (either halfway or as far as possible) without bending their hips or lifting their heels or toes off the ground. Time-to-contact of the CP with the geometric stability boundary defined by the feet as well as CP position and variability were analyzed. Mediolateral CP variability was increased in the patients with PD. Medio-lateral average time-to-contact was decreased in the patients but not so in the antcrior-posterior direction. In contrast to the CP variability, the medio-lateral variability of time-lo-contact was lower in the patients. Patients as well as healthy older controls responded to lean manipulations with an increase in CP variability. Boundary relevant CP measures thus show clear changes in control strategies and confirm the role of lateral instability in PD.
Christopher J. Hasson, Richard E.A. van Emmerik and Graham E. Caldwell
In this study, a comprehensive evaluation of static and dynamic balance abilities was performed in young and older adults and regression analysis was used to test whether age-related variations in individual ankle muscle mechanical properties could explain differences in balance performance. The mechanical properties included estimates of the maximal isometric force capability, force-length, force-velocity, and series elastic properties of the dorsiflexors and individual plantarflexor muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). As expected, the older adults performed more poorly on most balance tasks. Muscular maximal isometric force, optimal fiber length, tendon slack length, and velocity-dependent force capabilities accounted for up to 60% of the age-related variation in performance on the static and dynamic balance tests. In general, the plantarflexors had a stronger predictive role than the dorsiflexors. Plantarflexor stiffness was strongly related to general balance performance, particularly in quiet stance; but this effect did not depend on age. Together, these results suggest that age-related differences in balance performance are explained in part by alterations in muscular mechanical properties.
Richard E.A. van Emmerik, Stephanie L. Jones, Michael A. Busa and Jennifer L. Baird
Postural instability, falls, and fear of falling that accompany frailty with aging and disease form major impediments to physical activity. In this article we present a theoretical framework that may help researchers and practitioners in the development and delivery of intervention programs aimed at reducing falls and improving postural stability and locomotion in older individuals and in those with disability due to disease. Based on a review of the dynamical and complex systems perspectives of movement coordination and control, we show that 1) central to developing a movement-based intervention program aimed at fall reduction and prevention is the notion that variability can play a functional role and facilitate movement adaptability, 2) intervention programs aimed at fall reduction should focus more on coordination and stability boundary measures instead of traditional gait and posture outcome variables, and 3) noise-based intervention techniques using stochastic resonance may offer external aids to improve dynamic balance control.