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The general objective of this research program is to investigate the mechanisms involved in realizing (neural activity) sensory information from the bottom of the feet and then how it is utilized in producing functional balance reactions during locomotion.

Previous research has focused on balance control during standing or stepping and has shown that sensation from the bottom of the feet plays an important role in dynamic balance control.

This program will examine the role of sensation from the bottom of the feet during level walking and perturbed walking, such as unexpected stopping or walking over uneven surfaces. The research environment permits the novel interaction between biomechanical assessment and recordings of neural and muscle activity. Measurement of muscle and neural activity, pressure and whole-body motion during these conditions will provide previously unexplored contributions of this sensation to dynamic balance control strategies and neural signal transmission.

Experimentally collected data will be used with an advanced mathematical model to gain further insight into the role of sensation from the bottom of the feet in producing dynamic balance reactions. This predictive modelling may be able to determine the potential risk of loss of balance of an individual with foot insensitivity. The long-term objectives include contributions to the understanding of the role of sensation from the bottom of the feet during dynamic situations and potentially to the design of environmental factors (e.g. footwear, flooring and insoles) that involve, either directly or indirectly, foot sole sensation.

Funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.