Is perception of upper body orientation based on the inertia tensor? Normogravity versus microgravity conditions

N. Gueguen, T. Coyle, Cathy Craig, R.J. Bootsma, L. Mouchnino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


During lateral leg raising, a synergistic inclination of the supporting leg and trunk in the opposite direction to the leg movement is performed in order to preserve equilibrium. As first hypothesized by Pagano and Turvey (J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform, 1995, 21:1070-1087), the perception of limb orientation could be based on the orientation of the limb's inertia tensor. The purpose of this study was thus to explore whether the final upper body orientation (trunk inclination relative to vertical) depends on changes in the trunk inertia tensor. We imposed a loading condition, with total mass of 4 kg added to the subject's trunk in either a symmetrical or asymmetrical configuration. This changed the orientation of the trunk inertia tensor while keeping the total trunk mass constant. In order to separate any effects of the inertia tensor from the effects of gravitational torque, the experiment was carried out in normo- and microgravity. The results indicated that in normogravity the same final upper body orientation was maintained irrespective of the loading condition. In microgravity, regardless of loading conditions the same (but different from the normogravity) orientation of the upper body was achieved through different joint organizations: two joints (the hip and ankle joints of the supporting leg) in the asymmetrical loading condition, and one (hip) in the symmetrical loading condition. In order to determine whether the different orientations of the inertia tensor were perceived during the movement, the interjoint coordination was quantified by performing a principal components analysis (PCA) on the supporting and moving hips and on the supporting ankle joints. It was expected that different loading conditions would modify the principal component of the PCA. In normogravity, asymmetrical loading decreased the coupling between joints, while in microgravity a strong coupling was preserved whatever the loading condition. It was concluded that the trunk inertia tensor did not play a role during the lateral leg raising task because in spite of the absence of gravitational torque the final upper body orientation and the interjoint coupling were not influenced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-477
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jun 2004


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