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During anticipated postural perturbations induced by limb movement, the central nervous system generates anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) in the trunk and hip musculature to minimize disturbances to equilibrium. Age-related changes in functional organization of the nervous system may contribute to changes in APAs in healthy older adults. Here we examined if altered APAs of trunk/hip musculature in older adults are accompanied by changes in the representation of these muscles in motor cortex. Twelve healthy older adults, 5 with a history of falls and 7 nonfallers, were compared with 13 young adults. APAs were assessed during a mediolateral arm raise task in standing. Temporal organization of postural adjustments was quantified as latency of APAs in the contralateral external oblique, lumbar paraspinals, and gluteus medius relative to activation of the deltoid. Spatial organization was quantified as extent of synergistic coactivation between muscles. Volume and location of the muscle representations in motor cortex were mapped using transcranial magnetic stimulation. We found that older adults demonstrated significantly delayed APAs in the gluteus medius muscle. Spatial organization of the three muscles in motor cortex differed between groups, with the older adults demonstrating more lateral external oblique representation than the other two muscles. Separate comparisons of the faller and nonfaller subgroups with young adults indicated that nonfallers had the greatest delay in gluteus medius APAs and a reduced distance between the representational areas of the lumbar paraspinals and gluteus medius. This study indicates that altered spatial organization of motor cortex accompanies altered temporal organization of APA synergies in older adults.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Neurophysiology, volume 120, issue 6, in 2018 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1152/jn.00428.2018.

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American Physiological Society



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