Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 201, Issue 1, pp 13–23 | Cite as

Head stability during quiet sitting in children with cerebral palsy: effect of vision and trunk support

  • Sandra Saavedra
  • Marjorie Woollacott
  • Paul van Donkelaar
Research Article


Deficits in postural control are one of the hallmarks of disability in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Yet, much remains unknown regarding the etiology of postural deficits in these children. Here we evaluated postural control at a simplified task level by measuring head stability during quiet sitting while systematically manipulating the level of trunk support and vision in 15 children with CP (6–16 years), 26 typically developing (TD) children (4–14 years), and 11 adults. While TD children did not differ significantly from adults, children with CP had greater head movement than adults in both the sagittal and frontal planes under all conditions except frontal plane movement with Torso Support. Vision did not affect head stability in the sagittal plane for any group while it had differential effects on head stability in the frontal plane. Lack of vision improved head stability in adults and older TD children while destabilizing the head in young children (TD and CP) during the most unstable sitting position. Moreover, vision affected children with CP differently depending on their movement disorder. Children with spastic CP performed worse with eyes closed while those with dyskinetic CP had improved head stability with eyes closed. Our results demonstrate that children with mild to moderate CP have deficits in head stability even during quiet sitting.


Posture control Development 



Cerebral palsy


Typically developing



The authors wish to thank Cooper Boydston for providing computer support, Claudia Vincent for providing statistical consultation and Robert Nickel, MD, for neurologic evaluation of subjects. This work was supported by NIH Grant R01NS038714, Marjorie Woollacott, PI.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Saavedra
    • 1
  • Marjorie Woollacott
    • 1
  • Paul van Donkelaar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Physiology and Institute of NeuroscienceUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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