Indexed on: 15 Sep '16Published on: 15 Sep '16Published in: Frontiers in human neuroscience
Motor adaptation due to task practice implies a gradual shift from deliberate control of behavior to automatic processing, which is less resource- and effort-demanding. This is true both for deliberate aiming movements and for more stereotyped movements such as locomotion and equilibrium maintenance. Balance control under persisting critical conditions would require large conscious and motor effort in the absence of gradual modification of the behavior. We defined time-course of kinematic and muscle features of the process of adaptation to repeated, predictable perturbations of balance eliciting both reflex and anticipatory responses. Fifty-nine sinusoidal (10 cm, 0.6 Hz) platform displacement cycles were administered to 10 subjects eyes-closed (EC) and eyes-open (EO). Head and Center of Mass (CoM) position, ankle angle and Tibialis Anterior (TA) and Soleus (Sol) EMG were assessed. EMG bursts were classified as reflex or anticipatory based on the relationship between burst amplitude and ankle angular velocity. Muscle activity decreased over time, to a much larger extent for TA than Sol. The attenuation was larger for the reflex than the anticipatory responses. Regardless of muscle activity attenuation, latency of muscle bursts and peak-to-peak CoM displacement did not change across perturbation cycles. Vision more than doubled speed and the amount of EMG adaptation particularly for TA activity, rapidly enhanced body segment coordination, and crucially reduced head displacement. The findings give new insight on the mode of amplitude- and time-modulation of motor output during adaptation in a balancing task, advocate a protocol for assessing flexibility of balance strategies, and provide a reference for addressing balance problems in patients with movement disorders.