Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 153–158 | Cite as

Reduced postural sway during quiet standing by light touch is due to finger tactile feedback but not mechanical support

Research Note


It is well known that a light and voluntary touch with a fingertip on a fixed surface improves postural stability during quiet standing. To determine whether the effect of the light touch is due to the tactile sensory input, as opposed to mechanical support, we investigated the light touch effect on postural stability during quiet standing with and without somatosensory input from the fingertip. Seven young subjects maintained quiet standing on a force platform with (LT) and without (NT) lightly touching a fixed surface, and with (TIS) and without (CON) the application of tourniquet ischemia, which removed the tactile sensation from the fingertip. The mean velocity of centre of pressure (CoP) was calculated to assess the postural sway in each condition. The mean velocity of CoP was significantly smaller in the LT condition compared to the NT condition only under the CON condition, whereas the light touch effect was not significant under the TIS condition. We found that the reduction of the horizontal ground reaction force due to the light touch was about 20%, which was approximately equivalent to the reduction of mean velocity of CoP in the LT condition compared to the NT condition. Since the fingertip contact force was relatively large compared to the horizontal ground reaction force, one could say that the light touch effect might be due to the mechanical support provided by the contact itself. However, we demonstrated experimentally that light touch effects were diminished due to loss of finger tactile feedback induced by the tourniquet ischemia, but not due to the mechanical support provided by the light touch. One possible reason is the lack of feedback information in controlling posture, and the other is the altered control of the arm induced by the loss of tactile feedback.


Posture Fingertip Centre of pressure Tourniquet ischemia 



Centre of pressure




Ground reaction force


No touch


Light touch


Standard deviation


Tourniquet ischemia



This work was supported, in part, by a grant from the Secom Science and Technology Foundation, and by Ministry of Education Grant 18700487, Science and Culture of Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Graduate School of Human and Environmental StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Rehabilitation Engineering LaboratoryInstitute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Rehabilitation Engineering LaboratoryLyndhurst CentreTorontoCanada

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