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Anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) occur in the trunk during tasks such as rapid limb movement and are impaired in individuals with musculoskeletal and neurological dysfunction. To understand APA impairment, it is important to first determine if APAs can be measured reliably and which characteristics of APAs are task-invariant.

Research question

What is the test-retest reliability of latency, amplitude and muscle activation patterns (synergies) of trunk APAs during arm-raise and leg-raise tasks, and to what extent are these APA characteristics invariant across tasks at the individual and group levels?


15 young adults (mean age: 23.7 (±3.2) years) performed six trials of a rapid arm raise task in standing and a leg raise task in supine on two occasions. Latency, amplitude and coactivation of APAs in the erector spinae and external/internal oblique musculature were measured, and APA synergies were identified with principle components analysis. Test-retest reliability across the two sessions was calculated with intraclass correlation coefficients. Task-invariance was assessed at the individual level with correlation and at the group level with tests of equivalence.


Most variables demonstrated acceptable test-retest reliability. Synergies and many features of APA activation varied across tasks, although at the individual level, motor performance time and amplitude of lumbar erector spinae activation were significantly correlated across tasks. Average pre-motor reaction time, external oblique latency, contralateral oblique amplitude and internal oblique coactivation were equivalent across tasks.


Characteristics of trunk muscle APAs quantified during a single task may not be representative of an anticipatory postural control strategy that generalizes across tasks. Therefore, APAs must be assessed during multiple tasks with varying biomechanical demands to adequately investigate mechanisms contributing to movement dysfunction. The reliability analysis in this study facilitates interpretation of group differences or changes in APA behavior in response to intervention for the selected tasks.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Gait & Posture. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Gait & Posture, volume 76, in 2020.

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