H-reflex modulation preceding changes in soleus EMG activity during balance perturbation

  • Zoé Miranda
  • Annie Pham
  • Guillaume Elgbeili
  • Dorothy BarthélemyEmail author
Research Article


When balance is compromised, postural strategies are induced to quickly recover from the perturbation. However, neuronal mechanisms underlying these strategies are not fully understood. Here, we assessed the amplitude of the soleus (SOL) H-reflex during forward and backward tilts of the support surface during standing (n = 15 healthy participants). Electrical stimulation of the tibial nerve was applied randomly before platform tilt (control) and 0, 25, 50, 75, 100 or 200 ms after tilt onset. During backward tilt, a significant decrease in H-reflex amplitude was observed at 75, 100 and 200 ms. The onset of the decreased H-reflex amplitude significantly preceded the onset of the SOL EMG decrease (latency: 144 ± 16 ms). During forward tilt, the amplitude of the H-reflex increased at 100 and 200 ms after tilt onset. The onset of H-reflex increase did not occur significantly earlier than the onset of the SOL EMG increase (127 ± 5 ms). An important inter-subject variability was observed for the onset of H-reflex modulation with respect to EMG response for each direction of tilt, but this variability could not be explained by the subject’s height. Taken together, the results establish the time course of change in SOL H-reflex excitability and its relation to the increase and decrease in SOL EMG activity during forward and backward tilts. The data presented here also suggest that balance mechanisms may differ between forward and backward tilts.


H-reflex Perturbation Postural strategies Soleus Electromyography 



This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Réseau provincial en adaptation-réadaptation du Québec (REPAR) and scholarships from Fonds de recherche du Québec en Santé (FRSQ) and Canadian Institutes of Health research (CIHR) to Annie Pham. The authors also wish to thank Daniel Marineau, Loyda Jean-Charles, El-Mehdi Meftah and Valérie Bernier for technical assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine, School of RehabilitationUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater MontrealCRIRMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of MedicineUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Recherche en Schizophrénie et troubles neurodéveloppementauxInstitut universitaire en santé mentale DouglasMontrealCanada

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