The plantar sole is a ‘dynamometric map’ for human balance control

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Abstract

THIS study investigated the role of the plantar cutaneous information in controlling human balance. We hypothesized that the cutaneous afferent messages from the main supporting zones of the feet have sufficient spatial relevance to inform the CNS about the body position with respect to the vertical reference and consequently to induce adapted regulative postural responses. Skin mechanoreceptors of anterior and/or posterior areas of one or both soles of 10 standing subjects were activated by superficial mechanical vibration with high frequency and low amplitude. Variations of the subject's center of pressure (CoP) were recorded. Spatially oriented whole-body tilts were observed for every subject. Their direction depended on the foot areas stimulated and was always opposite to the vibration-simulated pressure increase. These responses are found to subserve a postural regulative function and we suggest that co-processing of the various cutaneous messages followed a vector addition mode.

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