The effect of actual and imaginary handgrip on postural stability during different balance conditions

M. S. VanderHill, E. E. Wolf, J. E. Langenderfer, K. I. Ustinova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The stabilizing effect of holding an object on upright posture has been demonstrated in a variety of settings. The mechanism of this effect is unknown but could be attributed to either additional sensorimotor activity triggered by a hand contact or cognitive efforts related to performance of a supra-postural task. A potential mechanism was investigated by comparing postural stability in young healthy individuals while gripping a custom instrumented wooden stick with a 5N force and while imagining holding the same stick in the hand. Twenty subjects were tested during three standing balance conditions: on a stationary surface, on a freely moving rockerboard, and with an unexpected perturbation of 10° forward rockerboard tipping. Postural stability was evaluated as velocity of the center of mass (COM) and center of pressure (COP) compared across all experimental conditions. COM and COP velocities were equally reduced when subjects gripped the stick and imagined gripping while standing stationary and on the rockerboard. When perturbed, subjects failed to show any postural stability improvements regardless of handgrip task. Results indicate a stabilizing effect of focusing attention on motor task performance. This cognitive strategy does not appear to contribute any additional stabilization when subjects are perturbed. This study adds to the current understanding of postural stabilization strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-657
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014


  • Dual task
  • Haptic devices
  • Postural control
  • Supra-postural task


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