- Top of page
- Balancing an unstable object: bias adjustments
- Is bias duration a consequence of visual control?
- Is bias duration influenced by sensory abundance?
Ten subjects balanced their own body or a mechanically equivalent unstable inverted pendulum by hand, through a compliant spring linkage. Their balancing process was always characterized by repeated small reciprocating hand movements. These bias adjustments were an observable sign of intermittent alterations in neural output. On average, the adjustments occurred at intervals of ∼400 ms. To generate appropriate stabilizing bias adjustments, sensory information about body or load movement is needed. Subjects used visual, vestibular or proprioceptive sensation alone and in combination to perform the tasks. We first ask, is the time between adjustments (bias duration) sensory specific? Vision is associated with slow responses. Other senses involved with balance are known to be faster. Our second question is; does bias duration depend on sensory abundance? An appropriate bias adjustment cannot occur until unplanned motion is unambiguously perceived (a sensory threshold). The addition of more sensory data should therefore expedite action, decreasing the mean bias adjustment duration. Statistical analysis showed that (1) the mean bias adjustment duration was remarkably independent of the sensory modality and (2) the addition of one or two sensory modalities made a small, but significant, decrease in the mean bias adjustment duration. Thus, a threshold effect can alter only a very minor part of the bias duration. The bias adjustment duration in manual balancing must reflect something more than visual sensation and perceptual thresholds; our suggestion is that it is a common central motor planning process. We predict that similar processes may be identified in the control of standing.