Faculté des sciences et de médecine

Alterations in the cortical control of standing posture during varying levels of postural threat and task difficulty

Tokuno, Craig D. ; Keller, Martin ; Carpenter, Mark G. ; Márquez, Gonzalo ; Taube, Wolfgang

In: Journal of Neurophysiology, 2018, vol. 120, no. 3, p. 1010–1016

Cortical excitability increases during the performance of more difficult postural tasks. However, it is possible that changes in postural threat associated with more difficult tasks may in themselves lead to alterations in the neural strategies underlying postural control. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine whether changes in postural threat are responsible for the... Di più

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    Summary
    Cortical excitability increases during the performance of more difficult postural tasks. However, it is possible that changes in postural threat associated with more difficult tasks may in themselves lead to alterations in the neural strategies underlying postural control. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine whether changes in postural threat are responsible for the alterations in corticospinal excitability and short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) that occur with increasing postural task difficulty. Fourteen adults completed three postural tasks (supported standing, free standing, or standing on an unstable board) at two surface heights (ground level or 3 m above ground). Single- and paired-pulse magnetic stimuli were applied to the motor cortex to compare soleus (SOL) and tibialis anterior (TA) test motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) and SICI between conditions. SOL and TA test MEPs increased from 0.35 ± 0.29 to 0.82 ± 0.41 mV (SOL) and from 0.64 ± 0.51 to 1.96 ±  1.45 mV (TA), respectively, whereas SICI decreased from 52.4 ± 17.2% to 39.6 ±  15.4% (SOL) and from 71.3 ± 17.7% to 50.3 ± 19.9% (TA) with increasing task difficulty. In contrast to the effects of task difficulty, only SOL test MEPs were smaller when participants stood at high (0.49 ± 0.29 mV) compared with low height (0.61 ±  0.40 mV). Because the presence of postural threat did not lead to any additional changes in the excitability of the motor corticospinal pathway and intracortical inhibition with increasing task difficulty, it seems unlikely that alterations in perceived threat are primarily responsible for the neurophysiological changes that are observed with increasing postural task difficulty.NEW & NOTEWORTHY We examined how task difficulty and postural threat influence the cortical control of posture. Results indicated that the motor corticospinal pathway and intracortical inhibition were modulated more by task difficulty than postural threat. Furthermore, because the presence of postural threat during the performance of various postural tasks did not lead to summative changes in motor-evoked potentials, alterations in perceived threat are not responsible for the neurophysiological changes that occur with increasing postural task difficulty.