Effect of altered sensory conditions on multivariate descriptors of human postural sway

Arthur D. Kuo, Rosemary A. Speers, Robert J. Peterka, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Multivariate descriptors of sway were used to test whether altered sensory conditions result not only in changes in amount of sway but also in postural coordination. Eigenvalues and directions of eigenvectors of the covariance of shnk and hip angles were used as a set of multivariate descriptors. These quantities were measured in 14 healthy adult subjects performing the Sensory Organization test, which disrupts visual and somatosensory information used for spatial orientation. Multivariate analysis of variance and discriminant analysis showed that resulting sway changes were at least bivariate in character, with visual and somatosensory conditions producing distinct changes in postural coordination. The most significant changes were found when somatosensory information was disrupted by sway-referencing of the support surface (P = 3.2·10-10). The resulting covariance measurements showed that subjects not only swayed more but also used increased hip motion analogous to the hip strategy. Disruption of vision, by either closing the eyes or sway-referencing the visual surround, also resulted in altered sway (P = 1.7·10-10), with proportionately more motion of the center of mass than with platform sway-referencing. As shown by discriminant analysis, an optimal univariate measure could explain at most 90% of the behavior due to altered sensory conditions. The remaining 10%, while smaller, are highly significant changes in posture control that depend on sensory conditions. The results imply that normal postural coordination of the trunk and legs requires both somatosensory and visual information and that each sensory modality makes a unique contribution to posture control. Descending postural commands are multivariate in nature, and the motion at each joint is affected uniquely by input from multiple sensors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Equilibrium
  • Human
  • Posture
  • Posturography
  • Sensory organization test
  • Sway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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