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Hendrik Reimann, Tyler Fettrow, and John J. Jeka

The neural control of balance during locomotion is currently not well understood, even in the light of considerable advances in research on balance during standing. In this paper, we lay out the control problem for this task and present a list of different strategies available to the central nervous system to solve this problem. We discuss the biomechanics of the walking body, using a simplified model that iteratively gains degrees of freedom and complexity. Each addition allows for different control strategies, which we introduce in turn: foot placement shift, ankle strategy, hip strategy, and push-off modulation. The dynamics of the biomechanical system are discussed using the phase space representation, which allows illustrating the mechanical effect of the different control mechanisms. This also enables us to demonstrate the effects of common general stability strategies, such as increasing step width and cadence.

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John J. Jeka, Pedro Ribeiro, Kelvin Oie, and James R. Lackner

The goal of the present study was to determine the properties of the somatosensory stimulus that alter its temporal coupling to body sway. Six standing subjects were tested while touching a metal plate positioned either directly in front of or lateral to the subject. In each condition, the plate moved 4 mm at 0.2 Hz in either the medial-lateral (ML) or anterior-posterior direction (AP). The results showed that coupling between body sway and touch plate movement was strongest when the touch plate moved in a direction along the longitudinal axis of the arm. Coupling strength was weaker when the touch plate moved perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the arm. The results consistently show that a radial expansion stimulus was more effective than a lamellar-type stimulus at the fingertip. Moreover, somatosensory information from a surface is interpreted in terms of the orientation of the contact limb and the potential degrees of freedom available through its movement.