Voluntary control of postural equilibrium patterns

John J. Buchanan, Fay B. Horak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The ability to voluntarily transit from one whole-body movement to another is based on the multisensory integration of visual, vestibular, and somatosensory information. The role of functional sensory ranges and mechanical constraints on the ability to voluntarily transit between whole-body movements was studied by requiring subjects to switch from a head-fixed-to-surface to head-fixed-in-space postural pattern (and vice versa). The head-fixed-to-surface pattern required an erect stance characterized by an in-phase relationship between center of pressure (CoP) and platform motion. The head-fixed-in-space pattern required subjects to fix trunk-head position in-space while producing an anti-phase relationship between CoP and platform motion. The voluntary transition was performed with and without vision while standing on a surface oscillating in the anterior-posterior (A/P) direction. The support surface oscillated at five frequencies (0.2-1Hz) with amplitude fixed at 15cm. The voluntary transition was initiated with an auditory cue. The appropriate CoP-platform phase relationship for the two postural patterns was produced for all frequencies with and without vision. Upper-trunk kinematics revealed that subjects often failed to produce the head-fixed-to-surface pattern for frequencies ≥0.6Hz, while producing the head-fixed-in-space pattern at all frequencies with vision. Without vision, neither pattern was produced consistently based on upper-trunk kinematics. These findings demonstrate separate control processes for upper- and lower-body motion and that functional sensory ranges and mechanical constraints can facilitate or inhibit voluntary production of whole-body movements based on these control processes. The results are discussed in reference to neurological substrates that may be involved in the planning and execution of motor set-switching. The experimental protocol we employ may also have application as a diagnostic tool for the evaluation of postural deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-140
Number of pages20
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 14 2003


  • Hierarchical models
  • Intention
  • Pattern-switching
  • Postural control
  • Vision
  • Voluntary movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Voluntary control of postural equilibrium patterns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this