On the effect of walking surface stiffness on inter-limb coordination in human walking: Toward bilaterally informed robotic gait rehabilitation

Jeffrey Skidmore, Panagiotis Artemiadis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Robotic devices have been utilized in gait rehabilitation but have only produced moderate results when compared to conventional physiotherapy. Because bipedal walking requires neural coupling and dynamic interactions between the legs, a fundamental understanding of the sensorimotor mechanisms of inter-leg coordination during walking, which are not well understood but are systematically explored in this study, is needed to inform robotic interventions in gait therapy. Methods: In this study we investigate mechanisms of inter-leg coordination by utilizing novel sensory perturbations created by real-time control of floor stiffness on a split-belt treadmill. We systematically alter the unilateral magnitude of the walking surface stiffness and the timing of these perturbations within the stance phase of the gait cycle, along with the level of body-weight support, while recording the kinematic and muscular response of the uperturbed leg. This provides new insight into the role of walking surface stiffness in inter-leg coordination during human walking. Both paired and unpaired unadjusted t-tests at the 95 % confidence level are used in the approriate scernario to determine statistical significance of the results. Results: We present results of increased hip, knee, and ankle flexion, as well as increased tibialis anterior and soleus activation, in the unperturbed leg of healthy subjects that is repeatable and scalable with walking surface stiffness. The observed response was not impacted by the level of body-weight support provided, which suggests that walking surface stiffness is a unique stimulus in gait. In addition, we show that the activation of the tibialis anterior and soleus muscles is altered by the timing of the perturbations within the gait cycle. Conclusions: This paper characterizes the contralateral leg's response to ipsilateral manipulations of the walking surface and establishes the importance of walking surface stiffness in inter-leg coordination during human walking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number32
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 22 2016

Keywords

  • Gait rehabilitation
  • Inter-leg coordination
  • Treadmill therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics

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