This study examined differences between young and elderly volunteers in cortical involvement to human posture control during quiet stance with normal and altered sensory stimulation (Experiment-1), and biomechanical perturbations (Experiment-2). The primary focus of the first part was to monitor changes in cortical activity when unexpectedly altering the sensory conditions of upright stance, such as switching from stable (eyes open, fixed support surface) to less-stable (eyes closed, sway-referenced support surface) conditions. Our results demonstrate increased cortical activations in delta (0.2–4 Hz) and gamma (30–50 Hz) oscillations, primarily over central-frontal, central, and central parietal cortices during challenging postural conditions. While increased delta rhythms were observed in both groups during challenging sensory conditions, elderly individuals also showed increased gamma band activity over sensorimotor and parietal cortices, when compared to the younger group. To our knowledge, this study is the first to show age differences in balance related cortical activations during continuous postural tasks with challenging sensory conditions. Preliminary correlations also suggest that increased cerebral activity became more relevant to the control of Center of Mass (COM) dynamics when upright stance is threatened. The results of Experiment-2 also showed for the first time that oscillatory rhythms of the cortex are coherent with muscle firing characteristics suggesting increased corticospinal drive from leg motor cortex to lower limb motoneurons following postural perturbations. Finally, perturbation evoked potential (PEP) analyses suggest that, rather than motor system malfunctioning, impairments in perceptual processing of sensory afference forms the basis of prolonged muscle response delays during perturbed balance in the elderly.
- Cortico-muscular coherence
- Perturbation evoked potentials
- Postural control
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology