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Touch and Balance During Walking Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Forero, Juan
Supervisor and department
Misiaszek, John (Occupational Therapy)
Examining committee member and department
Prochazka, Arthur (Centre for Neuroscience)
Jones, Kelvin (Physical Education & Recreation)
Collins, Dave (Physical Education & Recreation)
McIlroy, Bill (Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo)
Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
Rehabilitation Science
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In this thesis the participation of tactile feedback from the hands in the control of balance was investigated. In Chapter 2, I characterized arm and leg reactions to unexpected perturbations delivered through the arms during walking. Perturbations applied at the hands resulted in early latency responses in arm muscles that were accompanied by activation of muscles in the leg when subjects were instructed to oppose the perturbations. Although no responses were observed in the arms when subjects were instructed to comply to the perturbations, most subjects presented responses in muscles of the leg. Activation of muscles in the legs were present during the comply condition even though the perturbations did not result in a balance disturbance. In Chapter 3, I investigated the effect of light touch sensory cues on the earliest postural reactions to balance disturbances during walking. The results of this study revealed that corrective responses in leg muscles to perturbations during walking are modulated by light touch. In particular, it was found that the effect of light touch on the corrective responses was more apparent when walking with the eyes closed compared to walking with the eyes open. Finally, in Chapters 4 and 5, I studied the effect of light touch on the gating of neural pathways transporting sensory information associated with the touch surface. The results of the study presented in Chapter 4 showed that segmental cutaneous afferent pathways are facilitated in the presence of touch if they transport sensory information from functionally relevant sensory cues (i.e. skin in contact with the surface). The results of the study presented in Chapter 5 showed that when tactile feedback associated with the touch surface is available interlimb sensorimotor pathways transporting sensory information from the skin in contact with the touch surface are facilitated. Altogether the results from this thesis revealed that sensory input from the hand can encode information describing the interaction between the body and the environment, hence plays a strong role in the control of balance.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Forero J, Misiaszek JE (2013) The contribution of light touch sensory cues to corrective reactions during treadmill locomotion. Exp Brain Res 226:575–584

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