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Frequency dependence of the action-perception cycle for postural control in a moving visual environment: relative phase dynamics

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When standing human subjects are exposed to a moving visual environment, the induced postural sway displays varying degrees of coherence with the visual information. In our experiment we varied the frequency of an oscillatory visual display and analysed the temporal relationship between visual motion and sway. We found that subjects maintain sizeable sway amplitudes even as temporal coherence with the display is lost. Postural sway tended to phase lead (for frequencies below 0.2 Hz) or phase lag (above 0.3 Hz). However, we also observed at a fixed frequency, highly variable phase relationships in which a preferred range of phase lags is prevalent, but phase jumps occur that return the system into the preferred range after phase has begun drifting out of the preferred regime. By comparing the results quantitatively with a dynamical model (the sine-circle map), we show that this effect can be understood as a form of relative coordination and arises through an instability of the dynamics of the action-perception cycle. Because such instabilities cannot arise in passively driven systems, we conclude that postural sway in this situation is actively generated as rhythmic movement which is coupled dynamically to the visual motion.

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Dijkstra, T.M.H., Schöner, G., Giese, M.A. et al. Frequency dependence of the action-perception cycle for postural control in a moving visual environment: relative phase dynamics. Biol. Cybern. 71, 489–501 (1994).

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