Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 191, Issue 3, pp 265–276 | Cite as

Complexity of human postural control in young and older adults during prolonged standing

  • Marcos Duarte
  • Dagmar SternadEmail author
Research Article


Aging is known to have a degrading influence on many structures and functions of the human sensorimotor system. The present work assessed aging-related changes in postural sway using fractal and complexity measures of the center of pressure (COP) dynamics with the hypothesis that complexity and fractality decreases in the older individuals. Older subjects (68 ± 4 years) and young adult subjects (28 ± 7 years) performed a quiet stance task (60 s) and a prolonged standing task (30 min) where subjects were allowed to move freely. Long-range correlations (fractality) of the data were estimated by the detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA); changes in entropy were estimated by the multi-scale entropy (MSE) measure. The DFA results showed that the fractal dimension was lower for the older subjects in comparison to the young adults but the fractal dimensions of both groups were not different from a 1/f noise, for time intervals between 10 and 600 s. The MSE analysis performed with the typically applied adjustment to the criterion distance showed a higher degree of complexity in the older subjects, which is inconsistent with the hypothesis that complexity in the human physiological system decreases with aging. The same MSE analysis performed without adjustment showed no differences between the groups. Taken all results together, the decrease in total postural sway and long-range correlations in older individuals are signs of an adaptation process reflecting the diminishing ability to generate adequate responses on a longer time scale.


Equilibrium Nonlinear dynamics Fractals Entropy Time scales 



This work was made possible by a grant from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, FAPESP/Brazil awarded to Marcos Duarte (04/10917-0). Dagmar Sternad was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0450218) and the National Institutes of Health (RO1-HD045639).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Physical Education and SportUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Kinesiology and Integrative BiosciencesPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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