Postural Control under Cognitive Load: Evidence of Increased Automaticity Revealed by Center-of-Pressure and Head Kinematics

Anat V. Lubetzky, Elizabeth Coker, Liraz Arie, Moshe M.H. Aharoni, Tal Krasovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How postural responses change with sensory perturbations while also performing a cognitive task is still debatable. This study investigated this question via comprehensive assessment of postural sway, head kinematics and their coupling. Twenty-three healthy young adults stood in tandem with eyes open or wearing the HTC Vive Head-Mounted Display (HMD) with a static or dynamic (i.e., movement in the anterior-posterior direction at 5 mm or 32 mm at 0.2 Hz) 3-wall stars display. On half of the trials, participants performed a cognitive serial subtraction task. Medio-lateral center-of-pressure (COP) path significantly increased with the cognitive task, particularly with dynamic visuals whereas medio-lateral variance decreased with the cognitive task. Head path and velocity significantly increased with the cognitive task in both directions while variance decreased. Head-COP cross-correlations ranged between 0.78 and 0.66. These findings, accompanied by frequency analysis, suggest that postural control switched to primarily relying on somatosensory input under challenging cognitive load conditions. Several differences between head and COP suggest that head kinematics contribute an important additional facet of postural control and the relationship between head and COP may depend on task and stance position. The potential of HMDs for clinical assessments of balance needs to be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-479
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Motor Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • HTC Vive
  • balance
  • dual task
  • head mounted display
  • sensory integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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