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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00179

Ecological Momentary Assessment of Head Motion: Towards Normative Data of Head Stabilization

  • 1Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Technical University of Munich, Germany
  • 2Institute for Medical Technology, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
  • 3The Human Motion Project, Sylvia Lawry Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, Germany
  • 4Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Munich (NNCN), Germany
  • 5Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno, United States

Head stabilization is fundamental for balance during locomotion but can be impaired in elderly
or diseased populations. Previous studies have identified several parameters of head stability
with possible diagnostic value in a laboratory setting. Recently, the ecological validity of measures
obtained in such controlled contexts has been called into question. The aim of this study was
to investigate the ecological validity of previously described parameters of head stabilization in
a real-world setting. Ten healthy subjects participated in the study. Head and trunk movements
of each subject were recorded with inertial measurement units (IMUs) for a period of at least
ten hours. Periods of locomotion were extracted from the measurements and predominant
frequencies, root mean squares (RMSs) and bout lengths were estimated. As parameters
of head stabilization, attenuation coefficients (ACs), harmonic ratios (HRs), coherences and
phase differences were computed. Predominant frequencies were distributed tightly around 2
Hz and ACs, HRs and coherences exhibited the highest values in this frequency range. All head
stability parameters exhibited characteristics consistent with previous reports, although higher
variances were observed. These results suggest that head stabilization is tuned to the 2 Hz
fundamental frequency of locomotion and that previously described measures of head stability
could generalize to a real-world setting. This is the first study to address the ecological validity of
these measures, highlighting the potential use of head stability parameters as diagnostic tools or
outcome measures for clinical trials. The low cost and ease of use of the IMU technology used in
this study could additionally be of benefit for a clinical application.

Keywords: Head stabilization, accelerometry, motion sensors, Gait, balance

Received: 31 Jan 2019; Accepted: 17 May 2019.

Edited by:

Jonathan T. Delafield-Butt, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Eric Anson, University of Rochester, United States
Jerome Carriot, McGill University, Canada
Faisal Karmali, Harvard Medical School, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Hausamann, Daumer, MacNeilage and Glasauer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Peter Hausamann, Technical University of Munich, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Munich, 80333, Bavaria, Germany,