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Adriana M. Degani, Alessander Danna-Dos-Santos and Mark L. Latash

We tested the hypothesis that a sequence of mechanical events occurs preceding a step that scales in time and magnitude as a whole in a task-specific manner, and is a reflection of a “motor program.” Young subjects made a step under three speed instructions and four tasks: stepping straight ahead, down a stair, up a stair, and over an obstacle. Larger center-of-pressure (COP) and force adjustments in the anteriorposterior direction and smaller COP and force adjustments in the mediolateral direction were seen during stepping forward and down a stair, as compared with the tasks of stepping up a stair and over an obstacle. These differences were accentuated during stepping under the simple reaction time instruction. These results speak against the hypothesis of a single motor program that would underlie postural preparation to stepping. They are more compatible with the reference configuration hypothesis of whole-body actions.

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Halla B. Olafsdottir, Sun Wook Kim, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and Mark L. Latash

We tested the ability of healthy elderly persons to use anticipatory synergy adjustments (ASAs) prior to a self-triggered perturbation of one of the fingers during a multifinger force production task. An index of a force-stabilizing synergy was computed reflecting covariation of commands to fingers. The subjects produced constant force by pressing with the four fingers of the dominant hand on force sensors against constant upwardly directed forces. The middle finger could be unloaded either by the subject pressing the trigger or unexpectedly by the experimenter. In the former condition, the synergy index showed a drop (interpreted as ASA) prior to the time of unloading. This drop started later and was smaller in magnitude as compared with ASAs reported in an earlier study of younger subjects. At the new steady state, a new sharing pattern of the force was reached. We conclude that aging is associated with a preserved ability to explore the flexibility of the mechanically redundant multifinger system but a decreased ability to use feed-forward adjustments to self-triggered perturbations. These changes may contribute to the documented drop in manual dexterity with age.

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Robert K. Jensen, Tina Treitz and Sylvie Doucet

The purpose of this study was to develop prediction equations to estimate mass, radius to the center of mass (CM), and principal moments of the segments during pregnancy. Nonlinear regression equations were determined for the lower trunk, upper trunk, and thigh. The third sampling month of a longitudinal study was used (Sample 1, n = 15). The nonlinear regressions were then used to predict segment inertias above and below the third sampling month (Sample 2, the remaining 74 measurements). For the remaining segments, body mass and segment lengths were used as predictor variables for mass, radius to CM, and radius of gyration about the centroidal axes. The remaining seven segments did not change substantially during pregnancy, and the means of the repeated measures were used for the simple linear regressions. Eighteen of the 28 regressions and all of the CM regressions were significant. With pregnant subjects it is recommended that these regressions be used if application of the elliptical cylinder model is not possible.

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Fink Philip

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Kyriaki Kaplanidou

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Alex V. Nowicky, Alison H. McGregor and Nick J. Davey

We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to study corticospinal excitability to erector Spinae (ES) muscles during graded voluntary contractions in bilateral trunk extension (BTE) and forced expiratory breath holding (FEBH) in normal individuals. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) could be produced in all subjects in the absence of voluntary activation. At maximum voluntary contraction, levels of surface electromyographic (EMG) activity were 4 times greater during BTE than FEBH. When EMG was normalized to maximum. MEP amplitudes increased in proportion to contraction in both tasks. MEPs in FEBH were compared with extrapolated values at similar EMG levels in BTE and were found to be larger. EMG and MEPs in left and right ES were symmetrical throughout the range of contractions in both tasks. ES muscles have a facilitation pattern similar to that previously shown in leg muscles, but subtle differences at low levels of EMG suggest that the facilitation is dependent on the task.

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Oleg Verbitsky, Joseph Mizrahi, Arkady Voloshin, July Treiger and Eli Isakov

The goal of this research was to analyze the effects of fatigue on the shock waves generated by foot strike. Twenty-two subjects were instrumented with an externally attached, lightweight accelerometer placed over the tibial tuberosity. The subjects ran on a treadmill for 30 min at a speed near their anaerobic threshold. Fatigue was established when the end-tidal CO2 pressure decreased. The results indicated that approximately half of the subjects reached the fatigue state toward the end of the test. Whenever fatigue occurred, the peak acceleration was found to increase. It was thus concluded that there is a clear association between fatigue and increased heel strike–induced shock waves. These results have a significant implication for the etiology of running injuries, since shock wave attenuation has been previously reported to play an important role in preventing such injuries.

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Richard E.A. van Emmerik and Erwin E.H. van Wegen

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.