Voluntary movements induce postural perturbations, which are counteracted by anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) that preserve body equilibrium. Little is known about the neural structures generating APAs, but several studies suggested a role of sensory–motor areas, basal ganglia, supplementary motor area and thalamus. However, the role of the cerebellum still remains an open question. The aim of this present paper is to shed further light on the role of cerebellum in APAs organization. Thus, APAs that stabilize the arm when the index finger is briskly flexed were recorded in 13 ataxic subjects (seven sporadic cases, four dominant ataxia type III and two autosomal recessive), presenting a slowly progressive cerebellar syndrome with four-limb dysmetria, and compared with those obtained in 13 healthy subjects. The pattern of postural activity was similar in the two groups [excitation in triceps and inhibition in biceps and anterior deltoid (AD)], but apparent modifications in timing were observed in all ataxic subjects in which, on average, triceps brachii excitation lagged the onset of the prime mover flexor digitorum superficialis by about 27 ms and biceps and AD inhibition were almost synchronous to it. Instead, in normal subjects, triceps onset was synchronous to the prime mover and biceps and AD anticipated it by about 40 ms. The observed disruption of the intra-limb APA organization confirms that the cerebellum is involved in APA control and, considering cerebellar subjects as a model of dysmetria, also supports the view that a proper APA chain may play a crucial role in refining movement metria.
- Motor control
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