Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 209, Issue 1, pp 139–151 | Cite as

Vibratory noise to the fingertip enhances balance improvement associated with light touch

  • Fernando Henrique MagalhãesEmail author
  • André Fabio Kohn
Research Article


Light touch of a fingertip on an external stable surface greatly improves the postural stability of standing subjects. The hypothesis of the present work was that a vibrating surface could increase the effectiveness of fingertip signaling to the central nervous system (e.g., by a stochastic resonance mechanism) and hence improve postural stability beyond that achieved by light touch. Subjects stood quietly over a force plate while touching with their right index fingertip a surface that could be either quiescent or randomly vibrated at two low-level noise intensities. The vibratory noise of the contact surface caused a significant decrease in postural sway, as assessed by center of pressure measures in both time and frequency domains. Complementary experiments were designed to test whether postural control improvements were associated with a stochastic resonance mechanism or whether attentional mechanisms could be contributing. A full curve relating body sway parameters and different levels of vibratory noise resulted in a U-like function, suggesting that the improvement in sway relied on a stochastic resonance mechanism. Additionally, no decrease in postural sway was observed when the vibrating contact surface was attached to the subject’s body, suggesting that no attentional mechanisms were involved. These results indicate that sensory cues obtained from the fingertip need not necessarily be associated with static contact surfaces to cause improvement in postural stability. A low-level noisy vibration applied to the contact surface could lead to a better performance of the postural control system.


Sway Stochastic resonance Vibration Postural control Somatosensation Posture stabilization 



Analysis of variance




Best stimulation


Center of pressure


COP in the anterior–posterior axis


COP in the medio-lateral axis


Gravity of Earth


High frequencies


Low frequencies


Light touch




Power spectral density


Quiet standing


Root mean square






Standard deviation


Stochastic resonance


COPap velocity


COPml velocity


Vibratory stimulation 1, at intensity 0.4  g


Vibratory stimulation 2, at intensity 0.8  g



This research was funded by CNPq. The first author is a recipient of a fellowship from FAPESP, grant #2007/03608-9. We are grateful to Sandro A. Miqueleti for his invaluable technical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Henrique Magalhães
    • 1
    Email author
  • André Fabio Kohn
    • 1
  1. 1.Neuroscience Program and Biomedical Engineering LaboratoryUniversidade de São Paulo, EPUSP, PTC, Avenida Professor Luciano GualbertoSão PauloBrazil

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