We used the forward fall paradigm to test two hypotheses namely, that a supraspinal long-loop neural pathway is involved in the compensatory response, and secondly that the neural circuits underlying the performance of a balance-challenging task that requires the sequencing of several motor programs (compensatory reactions and stepping to recover balance) matures late in childhood. The first hypothesis was supported by the findings that the responses occurred earlier when the triggering signal was moved from the abdominal up to the chest level. The time required to react to the triggering signal within the supraspinal structures was also longer in children. The second hypothesis was verified by the observation of persisting soleus-tibialis coactivation in children up to 14 years old in three experimental conditions: unexpected release of the fall, voluntary release of the fall and longitudinal testing. These results suggest that the central processes involved in sequencing the postural responses do not mature until mid-adolescence. The maturation continues throughout childhood, with progressive emphasis on the central long- rather than short-latency pathways.
- Balance recovery
- Compensatory postural reactions
- Forward fall
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