NYMC Faculty Publications

Training Postural Balance Control with Pelvic Force Field at the Boundary of Stability

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Rehabilitation Sciences


This study characterizes the effects of a postural training program on balance and muscle control strategies in a virtual reality (VR) environment. The Robotic Upright Stand Trainer (RobUST), which applies perturbative forces on the trunk and assistive forces on the pelvis, was used to deliver perturbation-based balance training (PBT) in a sample of 10 healthy participants. The VR task consisted of catching, aiming, and throwing a ball at a target. All participants received trunk perturbations during the VR task with forces tailored to the participant's maximum tolerance. A subgroup of these participants additionally received assistive forces at the pelvis during training. Postural kinematics were calculated before and after RobUST training, including (i) maximum perturbation force tolerated, (ii) center of pressure (COP) and pelvic excursions, (iii) postural muscle activations (EMG), and (iv) postural control strategies (the ankle and hip strategies). We observed an improvement in the maximum perturbation force and postural stability area in both groups and decreases in muscle activity. The behavior of the two groups differed for perturbations in the posterior direction where the unassisted group moved towards greater use of the hip strategy. In addition, the assisted group changed towards a lower margin of stability and higher pelvic excursion. We show that training with force assistance leads to a reactive balance strategy that permits pelvic excursion but that is efficient at restoring balance from displaced positions while training without assistance leads to reactive balance strategies that restrain pelvic excursion. Patient populations can benefit from a platform that encourages greater use of their range of motion.