Perturbed step initiation in cerebellar subjects. 1. Modifications of postural responses

D. Timmann, F. B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Recent experiments in healthy subjects have demonstrated that automatic postural responses can be suppressed when subjects are instructed to step instead of maintain stance in response to the surface translation. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of the cerebellum in coordinating this interaction between the central command to step and peripherally triggered automatic postural responses. Eight subjects with cerebellar degeneration and eight control subjects were instructed to either maintain stance or step forward in response to a backward translation. In order to determine whether prediction of perturbation amplitude assisted suppression of postural responses, three platform translations were presented in both a serial (predictable) and a random (unpredictable) order. Cerebellar subjects were able to suppress their initial postural responses to the same amount as control subjects when instructed to step forward in response to backward translations, despite their hypermetria and inability to scale responses to predictable perturbation amplitudes. Control, but not cerebellar, subjects scaled the size of their postural responses to predictable perturbation amplitudes. The perturbation amplitude, however, had no effect on the size of early automatic responses when they were suppressed by instruction to step. The size of the suppressed postural response was independent of predictability of perturbation amplitudes in both control and cerebellar subjects. The dynamic interaction between automatic postural responses to an external perturbation and anticipatory postural adjustments for step initiation seems independent of prediction of perturbation amplitude and the integrity of the cerebellum. Although cerebellar subjects show larger-than-normal magnitude and variability of postural responses and an inability to scale the size of responses to predictable perturbation amplitudes, the cerebellum does not seem to be critical for suppression of the early postural response with a centrally intended movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Cerebellum
  • Human
  • Posture
  • Voluntary movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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