Do postural constraints affect eye, head, and arm coordination?



Publication Details

Stamenkovic, A., Stapley, P. J., Robins, R. & Hollands, M. A. (2018). Do postural constraints affect eye, head, and arm coordination?. Journal of Neurophysiology, 120 (4), 2066-2082.


If a whole body reaching task is produced when standing or adopting challenging postures, it is unclear whether changes in attentional demands or the sensorimotor integration necessary for balance control influence the interaction between visuomotor and postural components of the movement. Is gaze control prioritized by the central nervous system (CNS) to produce coordinated eye movements with the head and whole body regardless of movement context? Considering the coupled nature of visuomotor and whole body postural control during action, this study aimed to understand how changing equilibrium constraints (in the form of different postural configurations) influenced the initiation of eye, head, and arm movements. We quantified the eye-head metrics and segmental kinematics as participants executed either isolated gaze shifts or whole body reaching movements to visual targets. In total, four postural configurations were compared: seated, natural stance, with the feet together (narrow stance), or while balancing on a wooden beam. Contrary to our initial predictions, the lack of distinct changes in eye-head metrics; timing of eye, head, and arm movement initiation; and gaze accuracy, in spite of kinematic differences, suggests that the CNS integrates postural constraints into the control necessary to initiate gaze shifts. This may be achieved by adopting a whole body gaze strategy that allows for the successful completion of both gaze and reaching goals. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Differences in sequence of movement among the eye, head, and arm have been shown across various paradigms during reaching. Here we show that distinct changes in eye characteristics and movement sequence, coupled with stereotyped profiles of head and gaze movement, are not observed when adopting postures requiring changes to balance constraints. This suggests that a whole body gaze strategy is prioritized by the central nervous system with postural control subservient to gaze stability requirements.

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