Neck muscle vibration makes walking humans accelerate in the direction of gaze

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1. We studied the effect of the continuous vibration of symmetrical dorsal neck muscles in seven normal subjects during (a) quiet standing, (b) stepping in place movements and (c) walking on the treadmill. The experiments were performed in a darkened room and the subjects were given the instruction not to resist the applied perturbation. In one condition the velocity of the treadmill was controlled by feedback from the subject's current position. Head, trunk and leg motion were recorded at 100 Hz. 2. In normal standing, neck vibration elicited a prominent forward body sway. During stepping in place, neck vibration produced an involuntary forward stepping at about 0.3 m s-1 without modifying the stepping frequency. If the head was turned horizontally 45 and 90 deg to the right or to the left, neck muscle vibration caused stepping approximately in the direction of the head naso-occipital axis. For lateral eye deviations, the direction of stepping was roughly aligned with gaze direction. 3. In treadmill locomotion, neck vibration produced an involuntary step-like increase of walking speed (by 0.1-0.6 m s-1), independent of the initial walking speed. During backward locomotion, the walking speed tended to decrease during neck vibration. 4. Thus, continuous neck vibration evokes changes in the postural reference during quiet standing and in the walking speed during locomotion. The results suggest that the proprioceptive input from the neck is integrated in the control of human posture and locomotion and is processed in the context of a viewer-centred reference frame.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-814
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 15 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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