For most individuals, balancing upright is a simple task that requires little effort. The inherent difficulties associated with standing balance are not revealed until a pathology or injury impairs its control. Fundamentally, standing upright requires us to balance our unstable whole-body load within a small base of support. Small movements of the upright body are detected by various sensory receptors, all encoding these movements through their own coordinate system with specific dynamics. The balance controller filters, processes, and integrates sensory cues of body motion to produce an error signal between predicted and actual sensory consequences of balance-related movements. Compensatory motor commands are generated in response to this error to maintain upright standing. In the present review, we first briefly describe the biomechanics and sensor dynamics of standing balance. We further review sensorimotor and perceptual approaches revealing operational principles of the balance system, along with computational approaches that explore control processes underlying upright stance. Finally, we present robotic tools that virtualize the sensory consequences, biomechanics, and/or environmental factors inherent to the standing balance task. Throughout, we emphasize works that combine sensorimotor, computational, and/or robotics approaches to highlight the task dependency, multisensory cue combinations, cortical-subcortical contributions, and internal representations underpinning balance control.

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Handbook of Clinical Neurology
Department of Neuroscience

Forbes, P., Chen, A. (Anthony), & Blouin, J.-S. (Jean-Sébastien). (2018). Sensorimotor control of standing balance. In Handbook of Clinical Neurology. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-63916-5.00004-5