Maintaining balance standing upright is an active process that complements the stabilizing properties of muscle stiffness with feedback control driven by independent sensory channels: proprioceptive, visual, and vestibular. Considering that the contribution of these channels is additive, we investigated to what extent providing an additional channel, based on vibrotactile stimulation, may improve balance control. This study focused only on healthy young participants for evaluating the effects of different encoding methods and the importance of the informational content. We built a device that provides a vibrotactile feedback using two vibration motors placed on the anterior and posterior part of the body, at the L5 level. The vibration was synchronized with an accelerometric measurement encoding a combination of the position and acceleration of the body center of mass in the anterior-posterior direction. The goal was to investigate the efficacy of the information encoded by this feedback in modifying postural patterns, comparing, in particular, two different encoding methods: vibration always on and vibration with a dead zone, i.e., silent in a region around the natural stance posture. We also studied if after the exposure, the participants modified their normal oscillation patterns, i.e., if there were after effects. Finally, we investigated if these effects depended on the informational content of the feedback, introducing trials with vibration unrelated to the actual postural oscillations (sham feedback). Twenty-four participants were asked to stand still with their eyes closed, alternating trials with and without vibrotactile feedback: nine were tested with vibration always on and sham feedback, fifteen with dead zone feedback. The results show that synchronized vibrotactile feedback reduces significantly the sway amplitude while increasing the frequency in anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions. The two encoding methods had no different effects of reducing the amount of postural sway during exposure to vibration, however only the dead-zone feedback led to short-term after effects. The presence of sham vibration, instead, increased the sway amplitude, highlighting the importance of the encoded information.
|Titolo:||Vibrotactile Feedback for Improving Standing Balance|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2020|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||01.01 - Articolo su rivista|