Constancy of Preparatory Postural Adjustments for Reaching to Virtual Targets across Different Postural Configurations

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Postural and movement components must be coordinated without significant disturbance to balance when reaching from a standing position. Traditional theories propose that muscle activity prior to movement onset create the mechanics to counteract the internal torques generated by the future limb movement, reducing possible instability via centre of mass (CoM) displacement. However, during goal-directed reach movements executed on a fixed base of support (BoS), preparatory postural adjustments (or pPAs) promote movement of the CoM within the BoS. Considering this dichotomy, the current study investigated if pPAs constitute part of a whole-body strategy that is tied to the efficient execution of movement, rather than the constraints of balance. We reasoned that if pPAs were tied primarily to balance control, they would modulate as a function of perceived instability. Alternatively, if tied to dynamics necessary for movement initiation, they would remain unchanged, with feedback-based changes being sufficient to retain balance following volitional arm movement. Participants executed beyond-arm reaching movements in four different postural configurations that altered the quality of the BoS. Quantification of these changes to stability did not drastically alter the tuning or timing of preparatory muscle activity despite modifications to arm and CoM trajectories necessary to complete the reaching movement. In contrast to traditional views, preparatory postural muscle activity is not always tuned for balance maintenance or even as a calculation of upcoming instability but may reflect a requirement of voluntary movement towards a pre-defined location.

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Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health