, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 97-106

Head stabilization during various locomotor tasks in humans

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Summary

Head kinematics were studied in ten normal subjects while they executed various locomotor tasks. The movement of the body was recorded with a video system which allowed a computer reconstruction of motion of joint articulations and other selected points on the body in three dimensions. Analyses focus on head translation along the vertical axis and rotation in the sagittal plane. This was done by recording the displacement of a line approximating the plane of horizontal semi-circular canals (the Frankfort plane: F-P). Four conditions were studied: free walking (W) walking in place (WIP) running in place (R) and hopping (H). In the 4 experimental conditions, amplitude and velocity of head translation along the vertical axis ranged from 1 cm to 25 cm and 0.15 m/s to 1.8 m/s. In spite of the disparities in the tasks regarding the magnitude of dynamic components, we found a significant stabilization of the F-P around the earth horizontal. Maximum amplitude of F-P rotation did not exceed 20° in the 4 situations. Vertical angular velocities increased from locomotion tasks to the dynamic equilibrium task although the maximum values remained less than 140°/s. Predominant frequencies of translations and rotations in all the tasks were within the range 0.4–3.5 Hz and harmonics were present up to 6–8 Hz. During walking in darkness, mean head position is tilted downward, with the F-P always below the earth horizontal. Darkness did not significantly influence the amplitude and velocity of head angular displacement during W, WIP and R, but during H the amplitude decreased by 37%. Residual head angular displacement is found to compensate for head translation during the 4 conditions. Our study emphasizes the importance of head stabilization as part of the postural control system and described as a basis for inertial guidance.