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  • Supraspinal Control of Posture

    During most everyday activities, humans and animals need to maintain a specific body postures. Typically, a deviation from a desired posture evokes a correcting motor response, which leads to restoration of the posture. In this posture control system commands for postural corrections are generated on the basis of sensory information. This control system is based on in-born mechanisms and operates automatically. Both spinal networks and supraspinal motor centers participate, but at present their contributions are not clear.

    The overall aim of this project is to characterize the commands transmitted from the brain motor centers to the spinal cord during postural tasks. This will allow us to understand the relationship between the two levels of postural control: spinal and supraspinal. We hypothesize that the contribution from higher brain centers increases with complication of postural tasks, and strive to understand this contribution.

    In our experiments, we test subjects during balancing on a platform, which periodically tilts a little to the right and then to the left. Subjects assume different postures (such as leaning to the right or to the left) or perform stepping movements while still keeping balance on the platform. We record kinematic and dynamic parameters of limbs and body movements, the activity of limb muscles, and the neuronal activity of the motor cortex, motor thalamus, and midbrain. We then compare body mechanics, the activity of muscles, and the activity of brain areas during balancing with different postural configurations and reveal the parameters that are associated specifically with each of the configurations.

    This project is a collaborative effort between our laboratory and the laboratory of Dr. Tatiana Deliagina at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
    Every year for the last six years, one, two, or three members of Dr. Deliagina’s group have visited Phoenix for several weeks, during which time we conducted experiments together. Then during the remainder of the year, we extensively exchange the results of data analyses, and draft and finalize publications.

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