Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 228, Issue 3, pp 377–384 | Cite as

Cutaneous mechanisms of isometric ankle force control

  • Julia T. Choi
  • Jesper Lundbye-Jensen
  • Christian Leukel
  • Jens Bo NielsenEmail author
Research Article


The sense of force is critical in the control of movement and posture. Multiple factors influence our perception of exerted force, including inputs from cutaneous afferents, muscle afferents and central commands. Here, we studied the influence of cutaneous feedback on the control of ankle force output. We used repetitive electrical stimulation of the superficial peroneal (foot dorsum) and medial plantar nerves (foot sole) to disrupt cutaneous afferent input in 8 healthy subjects. We measured the effects of repetitive nerve stimulation on (1) tactile thresholds, (2) performance in an ankle force-matching and (3) an ankle position-matching task. Additional force-matching experiments were done to compare the effects of transient versus continuous stimulation in 6 subjects and to determine the effects of foot anesthesia using lidocaine in another 6 subjects. The results showed that stimulation decreased cutaneous sensory function as evidenced by increased touch threshold. Absolute dorsiflexion force error increased without visual feedback during peroneal nerve stimulation. This was not a general effect of stimulation because force error did not increase during plantar nerve stimulation. The effects of transient stimulation on force error were greater when compared to continuous stimulation and lidocaine injection. Position-matching performance was unaffected by peroneal nerve or plantar nerve stimulation. Our results show that cutaneous feedback plays a role in the control of force output at the ankle joint. Understanding how the nervous system normally uses cutaneous feedback in motor control will help us identify which functional aspects are impaired in aging and neurological diseases.


Cutaneous feedback Force Ankle dorsiflexion Human 



Support for this work was provided by the Danish Research Council (11-107721/FSS) and by the Whitaker International Scholars Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia T. Choi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jesper Lundbye-Jensen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian Leukel
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jens Bo Nielsen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Exercise and SportsUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen NDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Neuroscience and PharmacologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Sport ScienceUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Medicine, Movement and Sport ScienceUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland

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