Abstract Changing the foot position modifies the mechanical action exerted by the ankle extensor and flexor muscles over the body. We verified, in two groups of healthy subjects standing with the heels touching or apart, whether a 90° external rotation of the right leg and foot also changes the pattern of vestibulospinal reflexes elicited by electrical stimulation of the labyrinth. With the head oriented forward, leg rotation did not modify the labyrinthine-driven displacements of the center of pressure (CoP). When the head was rotated in the horizontal plane, either to the right or to the left, the CoP displacement increased along the y axis in all subjects. Changes in the x component in most instances appropriate to preserve unmodified the direction of body sway elicited by the stimulus were observed. Right leg rotation increased the basal EMG activity of ankle extensors and flexors on the left side, while the right side activity was unaffected. The EMG responses to labyrinthine stimulation were modified only on the left side, in a way appropriate to correct the effects of the altered torque pattern exerted on the body by right leg muscles. It appears, therefore, that somatosensory signals related to leg rotation and/or copy of the corresponding voluntary motor commands modify the pattern of vestibulospinal reflexes and maintain the postural response appropriate to counteract a body sway in the direction inferred by labyrinthine signals.
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