Learning to balance on a slackline : development of coordinated multi‐joint synergies

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Bibliographic Details
Title translated into German:Lernen, auf einer Slackline zu balancieren : Entwicklung von koordinierten mehrgelenkigen Synergien
Author:Mildren, Robyn L.; Zaback, Martin; Adkin, Allan L.; Bent, Leah R.; Frank, James S.
Published in:Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports
Published:28 (2018), 9, S. 1996-2008, Lit.
Format: Publications (Database SPOLIT)
Publication Type: Journal article
Media type: Electronic resource (online) Print resource
ISSN:0905-7188, 1600-0838
Online Access:
Identification number:PU201810007163

Author's abstract

Previous research has investigated synergies involved in locomotion and balance reactions; however, there is limited insight into the emergence of skilled balance control with practice of challenging tasks. We explored motor learning of tandem and single leg stance on an unstable surface—a slackline. Balance was tested in 10 naïve healthy adults at four time points: baseline, after one slackline practice session, after 1 week of practice, and 1 week following the final practice session. We recorded kinematics of the upper and lower arms bilaterally, trunk, and thigh and foot unilaterally while participants balanced in tandem and single leg stance on a slackline and narrow rigid beam (transfer task). When participants first attempted to stand on the slackline, they exhibited fast and frequent movements across all joints with actions along the frontal plane (particularly the hip) and fell after a short period (~3 seconds). Performance improved rapidly (fewer falls), and this was accompanied by dampened trunk and foot oscillations and the development of coordinated movement patterns with a progressive emphasis on more distal upper body segments. Continuous relative phase angles between joint pairs began to cluster around either 0° (indicating in‐phase movement) or 180° (indicating anti‐phase movement). Participants also began to demonstrate coordinated upper body synergies and performance improvements (fewer falls) on the transfer task, while a control group (n = 10) did not exhibit similar synergies or performance improvements. Our findings describe the emergence of coordinated movement synergies involving the upper body as healthy adults learn a challenging balance task.