This study investigated the relation between the magnitude of a motor action triggering a postural perturbation and the magnitude of anticipatory postural adjustments. Subjects stood on a force platform and held, in extended arms, a balloon with a 2.2-kg load suspended on a rigid cord. In different series, unloadings were induced by fast bilateral shoulder abduction movements, by popping the balloon with a tack taped to the subject's right middle finger, or by the experimenter popping the balloon. Anticipatory postural adjustments were seen during all self-initiated unloadings as changes in the level of activation of postural muscles and in displacements of the center of pressure. However, absolute values of these changes were significantly smaller in the series with balloon popping as compared to the series with shoulder abductions. Such reactions were absent when the unloading was triggered by the experimenter. We conclude that a self-triggered perturbation is always associated with anticipatory postural adjustments, while the magnitude of the adjustments may be scaled with respect to the magnitude of a motor action used to induce the perturbation.
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