Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 233, Issue 5, pp 1399–1408 | Cite as

Light touch modulates balance recovery following perturbation: from fast response to stance restabilization

  • Alessandra Rezende MartinelliEmail author
  • Daniel Boari Coelho
  • Fernando Henrique Magalhães
  • André Fabio Kohn
  • Luis Augusto Teixeira
Research Article


Light fingertip touch of a static bar generates extra somatosensory information used by the postural control system to reduce body sway. While the effect of light touch has been studied in quiet stance, less attention has been given to its potential benefit for reactive postural responses. In the present study, we tested the effect of light fingertip touch of a stable surface on recovery of postural stability from a mechanical perturbation. Participants stood upright on a force plate touching a static rigid bar while being pulled backward by a load. Unpredictable release of the load induced fast anterior body sway, requiring a reactive response to recover balance. Effect of light touch on postural responses was assessed as a function of vision and malleability of the support surface, analyzing different epochs ranging from the pre-perturbation period to recovery of a relatively stable quiet stance. Results showed that light touch induced lower magnitude of muscular activation in all epochs. Center of pressure (CoP) displacement/sway was affected by interaction of light touch with manipulation of the other sensory information. For the periods associated with quiet stance, light touch led to decreased CoP sway in the malleable surface in the pre-perturbation epoch, and in the condition combining no vision and malleable surface in the balance restabilization and follow-up quiet stance epochs. For the fast reactive response epoch, light touch induced smaller amplitude of CoP displacement across conditions, and lower CoP maximum velocity in the condition combining no vision and rigid surface. These results showed that light touch modulates postural responses in all epochs associated with an unanticipated mechanical perturbation, with a more noticeable effect in conditions manipulating sensory information relevant for balance control.


Haptic information Somesthetic afference Balance Postural control Postural perturbation 



This study was supported through Grants provided by the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo, Brazil (FAPESP, ARM #2011/18173-3, FHM #2011/13222-6 and LAT #2013/00639-1), and by the Brazilian Council of Science and Technology (CNPq, AFK #303313/2011-0, and LAT #302628/2013-4).

Conflict of interest

Authors declare to have no actual or potential conflict of interest including financial, personal or other relationships which might influence results and their interpretation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandra Rezende Martinelli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel Boari Coelho
    • 1
  • Fernando Henrique Magalhães
    • 2
  • André Fabio Kohn
    • 2
  • Luis Augusto Teixeira
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Motor Systems Laboratory, School of Physical Education and SportUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Biomedical Engineering Laboratory, Escola PolitecnicaUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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