Journal article

Aging does not affect the intralimb coordination elicited by slip-like perturbation of different intensities

This study was aimed at verifying whether aging modifies intralimb coordination strategy during corrective responses elicited by unexpected slip-like perturbations delivered during steady walking on a treadmill. To this end, 10 young and 10 elderly subjects were asked to manage unexpected slippages of different intensities. We analyzed the planar covariation law of the lower limb segments, using the principal component analysis, to verify whether elevation angles of older subjects covaried along a plan before and after the perturbation. Results showed that segments related to the perturbed limbs of both younger and older people do not covary after all perturbations. Conversely, the planar covariation law of the unperturbed limb was systematically held for younger and older subjects. These results occurred despite differences in spatio-temporal and kinematic parameters being observed among groups and perturbation intensities. Overall, our analysis revealed that aging does not affect intralimb coordination during corrective responses induced by slip-like perturbation, suggesting that both younger and older subjects adopt this control strategy while managing sudden and unexpected postural transitions of increasing intensities. Accordingly, results corroborate the hypothesis that balance control emerges from a governing set of biomechanical invariants, that is, suitable control schemes (e.g., planar covariation law) shared across voluntary and corrective motor behaviors, and across different sensory contexts due to different perturbation intensities, in both younger and older subjects. In this respect, our findings provide further support to investigate the effects of specific task training programs to counteract the risk of fall. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study was aimed at investigating how aging affects the intralimb coordination of lower limb segments, described by the planar covariation law, during unexpected slip-like perturbations of increasing intensity. Results revealed that neither the aging nor the perturbation intensity affects this coordination strategy. Accordingly, we proposed that the balance control emerges from an invariant set of control schemes shared across different sensory motor contexts and despite age-related neuromuscular adaptations.


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