Date of Award

Winter 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Michael McShane


Research objectives. Psychophysical acceleration threshold is a tool for detecting deficits in dynamic postural control. Our lab has shown differences in the acceleration threshold among young adults, elderly adults, and elderly adults with diabetes. Electromyography, Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments, and hearing tests investigate the underlying physiological mechanisms for the detriments in postural control. Due to peri-sway perturbations, the motion of a person's sway affects the signal to noise ratio for perturbed stance. Since increases in sway range accompany postural instabilities, sway entrainment will allow us to investigate changes in acceleration threshold at different points in sway. The center of pressure, observed for entrainment, only changes due to rotations about joints, specifically the ankle. The current method to model rotation about the ankle is a single orthogonal joint, and therefore inaccurate.

Methods. The SLIP-FALLS-STEPm Platform has lead to the ability to accurately measure and observe interactions in the range of postural sway. The combination of the platform with other testing modalities such as camera tracking systems, force mats, and accelerometers will allow for a comprehensive testing scheme. The new scheme can be combined with the induced sway produced by a sub-threshold sinusoidal entrainment process. The nonorthogonal modelling is programmed in Matlab®.

Results. For constant displacements, anterior accelerations thresholds via two-alternate forced choice (2AFC) showed differences in postural stability in mature, diabetic individuals with peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and those who are neurally intact (DNI) compared to healthy mature adults (HMA), which corresponded with previous results of lateral perturbations. Both DNI and DPN had significantly higher thresholds for acceleration via 2AFC than HMA at 1 and 4 mm displacements (p < 0.01 and p

Conclusion. The anterior acceleration thresholds show that peripheral neuropathy is not the sole cause for postural instability with diabetes. The ability to control the motion of sway will allow us to describe acceleration threshold throughout the range of sway. With a realistic ankle model, we will be able to better simulate postural dynamics.