Changes in balance strategy and neuromuscular control during a fatiguing balance task: A study in perturbed unilateral stance
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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- Artikler / Articles 
Original versionFrontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2016, 10. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00289 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00289
Fatigue impairs sensorimotor performance, reduces spinal reflexes and affects the interaction of antagonistic muscles in complex motor tasks. Although there is literature dealing with the interference of fatigue and postural control, the interpretation is confounded by the variety of paradigms used to study it. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of postural fatigue on balance control and strategy, as well as on neuromuscular modulation, in response to postural perturbation (PERT) during a fatiguing balance task. A fatigue protocol consisting of continuous exposure to perturbations until exhaustion was executed in 24 subjects. Number of failed attempts, paths of center of pressure displacement (COP), ankle, knee, and hip joint kinematics, electromyographic activity of the soleus (SOL), tibialis anterior (TA), rectus femoris (RF), vastus lateralis (VL), biceps femoris (BF), and gluteus maximus muscles (GM) and spinal excitability of SOL at the peak of the short-latency responses (SLR) were recorded after posterior PERT. The co-contraction index (CCI) was calculated for TA_SOL, VL_BF and RF_GM. (1) The number of failed attempts significantly increased while COP amplitude and velocity, as well as angular excursion at the ankle, knee and hip joints, decreased with fatigue (P < 0.05). (2) Concomitantly, CCI of SOL_TA, VL_BF and RF_GM increased and spinal excitability in SOL declined. (3) Adaptations progressively augmented with progressing exhaustion and occurred in the distal prior to proximal segment. Distinctly deteriorated balance ability was accompanied by a modified neuromuscular control—the increase in co-contraction reflected by simultaneously activated antagonists is accompanied by smaller knee and hip joint excursions, indicating an elevated level of articular stiffness. These changes may be associated with an exaggerated postural rigidity and could have caused the delayed and reduced postural reactions that are reflected in the changes in COP displacement when compensating for sudden PERT. The reduction in spinal excitability may either be caused by fatigue itself or by an increase in reciprocal inhibition due to augmented TA activity.