Keeping your balance while balancing a cylinder: Interaction between postural and voluntary goals

Selma Papegaaij, Andrea C. De Lima-Pardini, Beth A. Smith, Egbert Otten, Rajal G. Cohen, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The present study investigated whether postural responses are influenced by the stability constraint of a voluntary, manual task. We also examined how task constraint and first experience (the condition with which the participants started the experiment) influence the kinematic strategies used to simultaneously accomplish a postural response and a voluntary task. Twelve healthy, older adults were perturbed during standing, while holding a tray with a cylinder placed with the flat side down (low constraint, LC) or with the rolling, round side down (high constraint, HC). Central set changed according to the task constraint, as shown by a higher magnitude of both the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscle activation bursts in the HC than in the LC condition. This increase in muscle activation was not reflected, however, in changes in the center of pressure or center of mass displacement. Task constraint influenced the peak shoulder flexion for the voluntary tray task but not the peak hip flexion for the postural task. In contrast, first experience influenced the peak hip flexion but not the peak shoulder flexion. These results suggest an interaction between two separate control mechanisms for automatic postural responses and voluntary stabilization tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-87
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Central set
  • Dual-task
  • Postural responses
  • Posture
  • Voluntary task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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