Head orientation and gait stability in young adults, dancers and older adults

Rina M. Magnani*, Sjoerd M. Bruijn, Jaap H. van Dieën, Marcus F. Vieira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Control of body orientation requires head motion detection by the vestibular system and small changes with respect to the gravitational acceleration vector could cause destabilization. Research question: We aimed to compare the effects of different head orientations on gait stability in young adults, dancers and older adults. Methods: Three groups of 10 subjects were evaluated, the first composed of young adults (aged 18–30 years), the second composed of young healthy dancers under high performance dance training (aged 18–30 years), and the third group composed of community-dwelling older adults (aged 65–80 years). Participants walked on a treadmill at their preferred speed in four distinct head orientation conditions for four minutes each: control (neutral orientation); dynamic yaw (following a target over 45° bilaterally); up (15° neck extension), and down (40° neck flexion). Foot and trunk kinematic data were acquired using a 3D motion capture system and the gait pattern was assessed by basic gait parameters (step length, stride width and corresponding variability) and gait stability (local divergence exponents and margins of stability). Main effects of conditions and groups, as well as their interaction effects, were evaluated by repeated-measures analysis of variance. Results: Interactions of group and head orientation were found for both step length and stride width variability; main effects of head orientation were found for all evaluated parameters and main effects of group were found for step length and its variability and local divergence exponents in all directions. Significance: As expected, the older adults group showed less stable gait (higher local divergence exponent), the shortest step length and greater step length variability. However, contrary to expectation, the dancers were not more stable. The yaw condition was the most challenging for all groups and the down condition seemed to be least challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-73
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
Early online date25 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


The authors are grateful to Brazilian government agencies CAPES and CNPq . RMM was funded by CAPES (PDSE 19/2016 ). SMB was funded by a VIDI grant ( 016.Vidi.178.014 ) from the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research ( NWO ).

FundersFunder number
Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research
Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek
Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e TecnológicoPDSE 19/2016


    • Dancing
    • Gait analysis
    • Margins of stability
    • Vestibular system


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