Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 235, Issue 11, pp 3427–3436 | Cite as

Changes in balance coordination and transfer to an unlearned balance task after slackline training: a self-organizing map analysis

  • Ben SerrienEmail author
  • Erich Hohenauer
  • Ron Clijsen
  • Wolfgang Taube
  • Jean-Pierre Baeyens
  • Ursula Küng
Research Article


How humans maintain balance and change postural control due to age, injury, immobility or training is one of the basic questions in motor control. One of the problems in understanding postural control is the large set of degrees of freedom in the human motor system. Therefore, a self-organizing map (SOM), a type of artificial neural network, was used in the present study to extract and visualize information about high-dimensional balance strategies before and after a 6-week slackline training intervention. Thirteen subjects performed a flamingo and slackline balance task before and after the training while full body kinematics were measured. Range of motion, velocity and frequency of the center of mass and joint angles from the pelvis, trunk and lower leg (45 variables) were calculated and subsequently analyzed with an SOM. Subjects increased their standing time significantly on the flamingo (average +2.93 s, Cohen’s d = 1.04) and slackline (+9.55 s, d = 3.28) tasks, but the effect size was more than three times larger in the slackline. The SOM analysis, followed by a k-means clustering and marginal homogeneity test, showed that the balance coordination pattern was significantly different between pre- and post-test for the slackline task only (χ 2 = 82.247; p < 0.001). The shift in balance coordination on the slackline could be characterized by an increase in range of motion and a decrease in velocity and frequency in nearly all degrees of freedom simultaneously. The observation of low transfer of coordination strategies to the flamingo task adds further evidence for the task-specificity principle of balance training, meaning that slackline training alone will be insufficient to increase postural control in other challenging situations.


Balance training Coordination Transfer Slackline Self-organizing map 



We like to thank Medi-Lines for providing the Slackbase free of charge to conduct the experiments and the training, and Thomas Konzett for assisting at the measurements.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest that may have biased the findings in this article.

Supplementary material

221_2017_5072_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (342 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 342 kb)
221_2017_5072_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (34 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 33 kb)
221_2017_5072_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (538 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 537 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Physical Education and PhysiotherapyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera ItalianaLandquartSwitzerland
  3. 3.THIM – University of Applied Sciences in PhysiotherapyLandquartSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Medicine, Movement and Sport SciencesUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland
  5. 5.Department of Electronics and ICTUniversiteit AntwerpenAntwerpBelgium

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