Inputs from the visual, somatosensory and vestibular systems must be integrated efficiently to activate appropriate motor responses in maintaining optimal balance. This study examined the standing balance of 17 children (7 to 10 years old) and 17 young adults (19 to 23 years old) as a function of sensory organization, sensory system efficiency, and postural strategy adopted. Tests of standing balance were administered under six sensory conditions created by simultaneous alteration of the visual (full, occluded, or sway-referenced) and the somatosensory inputs (fixed-foot or compliant-foot support). The sway area and the sway amplitude of the center of pressure were measured and analyzed. Three findings are notable. The function of sensory organization for balance control was poorer for the children than the young adults. The functional efficiency of the somatosensory and the visual systems of children have developed to the young adult level, but that of the vestibular system has not. There was no difference between children and young adults in hip control, but there was in ankle control when the vestibular input was the only reliable source of sensory input. These results suggest that the functional efficiency of the vestibular system in children 7 to 10 years of age may still be developing. This may account for their poorer function of sensory organization and lower performance of standing balance.
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