Our purpose was to determine whether spatiotemporal measures of center of mass motion relative to the base of support boundary could predict stepping strategies after upper-body postural perturbations in humans. We expected that inclusion of center of mass acceleration in such time-tocontact (TtC) calculations would give better predictions and more advanced warning of perturbation severity. TtC measures were compared with traditional postural variables, which don’t consider support boundaries, and with an inverted pendulum model of dynamic stability developed by Hof et al. (2005). A pendulum was used to deliver sequentially increasing perturbations to 10 young adults, who were strapped to a wooden backboard that constrained motion to sagittal plane rotation about the ankle joint. Subjects were instructed to resist the perturbations, stepping only if necessary to prevent a fall. Peak center of mass and center of pressure velocity and acceleration demonstrated linear increases with postural challenge. In contrast, boundary relevant minimum TtC values decreased nonlinearly with postural challenge, enabling prediction of stepping responses using quadratic equations. When TtC calculations incorporated center of mass acceleration, the quadratic fits were better and gave more accurate predictions of the TtC values that would trigger stepping responses. In addition, TtC minima occurred earlier with acceleration inclusion, giving more advanced warning of perturbation severity. Our results were in agreement with TtC predictions based on Hof’s model, and suggest that TtC may function as a control parameter, influencing the postural control system’s decision to transition from a stationary base of support to a stepping strategy.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/graham_caldwell/7/