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Simulation reveals how body repairs balance after damage
Date:9/25/2007

the nervous system (experienced with a loss of vision or touch and problems in the inner ear) lead to balance problems. Experts traditionally have had little understanding of how the nervous systems communication with the muscles associated with balance changes when one or several pieces of necessary sensory information are missing.

Georgia Tech and Emory researchers set out to create an effective way to interpret how commands from the nervous system to muscles (measured through electrical signals in the muscles) are changed by sensory impairment similar to the numbing of feet experienced by diabetes patients and how these changes affect balance control. The team started with data sets from animals. They were able to determine that, after a period of rehabilitation, subjects with some sensory damage were able to regain their balance despite the loss of some sensory information. So how do the nervous system and muscles fill in the information gaps"

The Georgia Tech and Emory team hypothesized that the nervous system relies on the relationship between the bodys center of gravity and its environment to control balance. They reasoned that the best predictor of how muscles would be activated when the subject experienced a balance threat was not the motion of the individual body parts, but the horizontal motion of the bodys center of gravity.

To test their theory, the researchers created a computer simulation that could accurately simulate standing balance and muscle reactions to balance disturbances by focusing on the relation of the subjects center of gravity to the ground. Rather than predicting neural control patterns for the multitude of sensory information processed by the body to maintain balance, the team instead tracked a small set of signals related to the bodys control of its center of gravity.

The Georgia Tech and Emory team determined that subjects who had impaired sensory information were slowly using new sensory pathway
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Contact: Megan McRainey
megan.mcrainey@icpa.gatech.edu
404-894-6016
Georgia Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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