Effects of light fingertip touch on postural responses in subjects with diabetic neuropathy

R. Dickstein, R. J. Peterka, F. B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Objectives: To investigate the potential benefits from lightly touching an external supporting device on automatic postural responses to support surface translations, in subjects with profound sensory neuropathy in the feet due to diabetes mellitus (DM-PN). Methods: Eight subjects with DM-PN and 10 age matched controls were tested under randomly ordered conditions of no fingertip touch (NT), light touch (LT; <1 N), and heavy touch (HT, as needed) of a stationary touch plate, during three backward translation velocities of the support surface at 10, 20, and 30 cm/s. Dependent variables included response latencies, CoP velocity, and the slope of the relation between centre of pressure (COP) velocity and translation velocity as a measure of response scaling. Results: Postural response latencies were significantly longer and scaling of initial response magnitude in proportion to translation velocity was significantly smaller in the DM-PN subjects compared to the control subjects. LT had no significant effect on response latencies of the DM-PN patients. Fingertip touch increased the slope of the scaling of postural response magnitude in both groups. However, DM-PN subjects had to use HT to improve response scaling, whereas control subjects improved scaling with LT as well as HT. LT significantly increased rightward CoP velocity towards the touch plate in all subjects. Conclusions: LT did not reduce the latency or improve the scaling of automatic postural responses in subjects with peripheral neuropathy. The major effect of LT on the automatic postural responses of the DM-PN subjects was in increasing CoP velocity towards the side of the supporting device. HT in neuropathy subjects and LT in age matched control subjects increased the sensitivity of initial postural response scaling, suggesting that somatosensory substitution from a cane in the hand could be used to improve the magnitude of medium latency postural responses to slips and trips.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-626
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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