Stance dependence of automatic postural adjustments in humans

J. M. Macpherson, F. B. Horak, D. C. Dunbar, R. S. Dow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effect of initial stance configuration on automatic postural responses in humans. Subjects were tested in both bipedal and quadrupedal stance postures. The postural responses to horizontal translations of the supporting surface were measured in terms of the forces at the ground, movement of the body segments, and electromyographic (EMG) activity. Postural responses to the same perturbations changed with initial stance posture; these responses were biomechanically appropriate for restoring centre of mass. A change in stance configuration prior to platform movement led to a change in both the spatial and temporal organization of evoked muscle activation. Specifically, for the same direction of platform movement, during bipedal stance muscles on one side of the lower limb were activated in a distal to proximal sequence; during quadrupedal stance, muscles on the opposite side of the lower limb were activated and in a proximal to distal sequence. The most significant finding was an asymmetry in the use of the upper limbs and the lower limbs during postural corrections in quadrupedal stance. Whereas antagonists of the upper limb were either co-activated or co-inhibited, depending on the direction of translation, lower limb antagonists were reciprocally activated and inhibited. Human subjects in a quadrupedal stance posture used the lower limbs as levers, protracting or retracting the hips in order to propel the trunk back to its original position with respect to the hands and feet. Postural responses of the subjects during quadrupedal stance were remarkably similar to those of cats subjected to similar perturbations of the supporting surface. Furthermore, the same predominance of lower limb correction is characteristic of both species, suggesting that the standing cat is a good model for studying postural control in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-566
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Biped
  • EMG
  • Human
  • Posture and stance
  • Quadruped

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Stance dependence of automatic postural adjustments in humans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this