Maintaining postural equilibrium requires fast reactions and constant adjustments of the center of mass (CoM) position to prevent falls, especially when there is a sudden perturbation of the support surface. During this study, a newly developed wearable feedback system provided immediate vibrotactile clues to users based on plantar force measurement, in an attempt to reduce reaction time and CoM displacement in response to a perturbation of the floor. Ten healthy young adults participated in this study. They stood on a support surface, which suddenly moved in one of four horizontal directions (forward, backward, left and right), with the biofeedback system turned on or off. The testing sequence of the four perturbation directions and the two system conditions (turned on or off) was randomized. The resulting reaction time and CoM displacement were analysed. Results showed that the vibrotactile feedback system significantly improved balance control during translational perturbations. The positive results of this preliminary study highlight the potential of a plantar force measurement based biofeedback system in improving balance under perturbations of the support surface. Future system optimizations could facilitate its application in fall prevention in real life conditions, such as standing in buses or trains that suddenly decelerate or accelerate.
Available for download on Sunday, July 29, 2018