Human balance in stance is usually defined as the preservation of the vertical projection of the center of mass (COM) on the support area formed by the feet. Under microgravity conditions, the control of equilibrium seems to be no longer required. However, several reports indicate preservation of COM control in tasks such as arm or leg raising, tiptoe standing, or trunk bending. It is still unclear whether COM control is also maintained in complex multijoint movements during short term exposure to microgravity. In the current study, the dynamics of equilibrium control were studied in four subjects performing two series of seven whole-body lifting movements under microgravity during parabolic flights. The aims of the study were to examine whether the trajectory of horizontal COM motion during lifting movements changes in short-term exposure to microgravity and whether there is any sign of recovery after several lifting movements. It was found that, compared with control movements under normal gravity, the horizontal position of the COM was shifted backward during the entire lifting movement in all subjects. In the second series of lifting movements under microgravity, a partial recovery of the COM trajectory toward the normal gravity situation was found. Under microgravity, angles of the ankle, knee, hip, and lumbar joints differed significantly from the angles found under normal gravity. Recovery of joint angular trajectories in the second series of lifting movements mainly occurred for those angles that could contribute to a reduction of the backward COM shift. It is to be pointed out that COM control under microgravity is not redundant but functional. Persisting COM control under microgravity may be required for pure mechanical reasons, since rotational movements of the body are dependent on adequate control of the COM position with respect to external forces. It is shown that, from a mechanical perspective, subjects can benefit from a backward displacement of the COM in the downward as well as the upward phase of the lifting movement under microgravity.
Kingma, I., Toussaint, H. M., Commissaris, D. A. C. M., & Savelsbergh, G. J. P. (1999). Adaptation of center of mass control under microgravity in a whole-body lifting task. Experimental Brain Research, 125, 35-42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002210050655