Advanced characterization of static postural control dysfunction in persons with multiple sclerosis and associated neural mechanisms

Sutton B. Richmond, Tyler T. Whittier, Daniel S. Peterson, Brett W. Fling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune-based chronic inflammatory disease characterized by the neurodegeneration of the central nervous system and produces postural dysfunction. Quiet or static standing is a complex task carried out through afferent sensory inputs and efferent postural corrective outputs. Currently the mechanisms underlying these outputs remain largely unknown. Research question: Assess the relationship between multi-dimensional measures of postural control and microstructural integrity of the cortical sensorimotor pathway (CSP) in persons with MS (PwMS) and neurotypical adults. Methods: Postural control performance was assessed by both overall and directional time-to-boundary measures across four manipulated sensory stance conditions (eyes open/closed; stance firm/foam) in twenty-nine neurotypical and twenty-seven PwMS. These postural outcomes were evaluated with mixed-model repeated measures analysis of variance across group (MS and control) and stance condition. Postural performance was also correlated with magnetic resonance imaging diffusion tensor-derived measures of microstructural integrity of the CSP. Results: PwMS displayed significantly (p = 0.026) worse anterior-posterior postural control compared to their neurotypical counterparts across sensory testing conditions and poorer CSP microstructural integrity in comparison to neurotypical adults (p = 0.008). Additionally, PwMS displayed a significant association (2D (rho = -0.384, p = 0.048), AP (rho = -0.355, p = 0.035), and ML (rho = -0.365, p = 0.030) between integrity of the CSP and postural control performance during proprioceptive-based balance, such that those with worse cortical structure had poorer balance control. Significance: This is the first study to establish connections between the microstructural integrity of the CSP and multi-dimensional postural control performance. Results indicate that a reduction in the CSP microstructural integrity is associated with poorer postural control in PwMS. These outcomes identify neural underpinnings of postural control dysfunction in PwMS and provide new avenues for evaluating the efficacy of postural rehabilitation strategies in PwMS that express proprioceptive-based postural deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-120
Number of pages7
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Balance
  • Cortical sensorimotor pathway
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Postural control
  • Time-to-boundary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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