Are ankle muscle responses in balance recovery hard-wired?

Mark Vlutters*, Edwin van Asseldonk, Herman van der Kooij

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


    The ankle joint muscles can contribute to balance during walking by modulating the center of pressure and ground reaction forces through an ankle moment. This is especially effective in the sagittal plane through ankle plantar- or dorsiflexion. If the ankle joints would be physically blocked to make an ankle strategy ineffective, there would be no functional contribution of these muscles to balance during walking, nor would these muscles generate afferent output regarding ankle joint rotation. Consequently, ankle muscle activation for the purpose of balance control would be expected to disappear. To investigate human balance control, we have performed an experiment in which subjects received anteroposterior pelvis perturbations during walking while the ankle joints could not contribute to the balance recovery. The latter was realized by physically blocking the ankle joints through a pair of modified ankle-foot orthoses. Here, we present the lower-limb muscle activity responses in reaction to these perturbations. Of particular interest are the tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius medialis muscles, as these could not contribute to the balance recovery through the ankle joint, nor encode muscle length changes caused by ankle joint rotation. Yet, these muscles showed long-latency responses approximately 100 ms after perturbation onset, even though the ankle joints were blocked. The response amplitudes were dependent on the perturbation magnitude and direction, as well as the state of the leg. The results suggest a centralized regulation of balance control involving supra-spinal neural structures, without the need for changes in ankle muscle proprioceptive information.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationConverging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation III
    Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 4th International Conference on NeuroRehabilitation (ICNR2018), October 16-20, 2018, Pisa, Italy
    EditorsLorenzo Masia, Silvestro Micera, Metin Akay, José L. Pons
    Place of PublicationCham
    Number of pages4
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-01845-0
    ISBN (Print)978-3-030-01844-3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
    Event4th International Conference on NeuroRehabilitation, ICNR 2018: Converging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation III - Pisa, Italy
    Duration: 16 Oct 201820 Oct 2018
    Conference number: 4

    Publication series

    NameBiosystems and Biorobotics
    ISSN (Print)2195-3562
    ISSN (Electronic)2195-3570


    Conference4th International Conference on NeuroRehabilitation, ICNR 2018
    Abbreviated titleICNR
    Internet address


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