Ting T Yeh, Tyler Cluff, and Ramesh Balasubramaniam (2014)
Visual Reliance for Balance Control in Older Adults Persists When Visual Information Is Disrupted by Artificial Feedback Delays
PLoS ONE, 9:e91554.
Sensory information from our eyes, skin and muscles helps guide and correct balance. Less appreciated, however, is that delays in the transmission of sensory information between our eyes, limbs and central nervous system can exceed several 10s of milliseconds. Investigating how these time-delayed sensory signals influence balance control is central to understanding the postural system. Here, we investigate how delayed visual feedback and cognitive performance influence postural control in healthy young and older adults. The task required that participants position their center of pressure (COP) in a fixed target as accurately as possible without visual feedback about their COP location (eyes-open balance), or with artificial time delays imposed on visual COP feedback. On selected trials, the participants also performed a silent arithmetic task (cognitive dual task). We separated COP time series into distinct frequency components using low and highpass filtering routines. Visual feedback delays affected low frequency postural corrections in young and older adults, with larger increases in postural sway noted for the group of older adults. In comparison, cognitive performance reduced the variability of rapid center of pressure displacements in young adults, but did not alter postural sway in the group of older adults. Our results demonstrate that older adults prioritize vision to control posture. This visual reliance persists even when feedback about the task is delayed by several hundreds of milliseconds.