Locomotion involves complex neural networks responsible for automatic and volitional actions. During locomotion, motor strategies can rapidly compensate for any obstruction or perturbation that could interfere with forward progression. In this pilot study, we examined the contribution of interlimb pathways for evoking muscle activation patterns in the contralateral limb when a unilateral perturbation was applied and in the case where body weight was externally supported. In particular, the latency of neuromuscular responses was measured, while the stimulus to afferent feedback was limited. The pilot experiment was conducted with six healthy young subjects. It employed the MIT-Skywalker (beta-prototype), a novel device intended for gait therapy. Subjects were asked to walk on the split-belt treadmill, while a fast unilateral perturbation was applied mid-stance by unexpectedly lowering one side of the split-treadmill walking surfaces. Subject's weight was externally supported via the body-weight support system consisting of an underneath bicycle seat and the torso was stabilized via a loosely fitted chest harness. Both the weight support and the chest harness limited the afferent feedback. The unilateral perturbations evoked changes in the electromyographic activity of the non-perturbed contralateral leg. The latency of all muscle responses exceeded 100 ms, which precludes the conjecture that spinal cord alone is responsible for the perturbation response. It suggests the role of supraspinal or midbrain level pathways at the inter-leg coordination during gait.
- Gait perturbation
- Interlimb coordination
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Biomedical Engineering