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Our recent work into the neuromuscular origins of step-to-step corrective motor responses underlying balance control during human walking has been accepted for publication in Nature: Scientific Reports.

Stokes HE, Thompson, JD, and Franz JR. The neuromuscular origins of kinematic variability during perturbed walking. Nature: Scientific Reports (In Press)


Abstract: We investigated the neuromuscular contributions to kinematic variability and thus step to step adjustments in posture and foot placement across a range of walking speeds in response to optical flow perturbations of different amplitudes applied in a custom virtual environment. We found that perturbations significantly increased step width, decreased step length, and elicited larger trunk sway compared to normal walking. However, perturbation-induced effects on the corresponding variabilities of these measurements were much more profound. Consistent with our hypotheses, we found that: (1) perturbations increased EMG activity of the gluteus medius and postural control muscles during leg swing, and increase the coactivation of antagonistic leg muscles during limb loading in early stance, and (2) changes in the magnitude of step to step adjustments in postural sway and lateral foot placement positively correlated with those of postural control and gluteus medius muscle activities, respectively, in response to perturbations. However, (3) interactions between walking speed and susceptibility to perturbations, when present, were more complex than anticipated. Our study provides important mechanistic neuromuscular insight into walking balance control and important reference values for the emergence of balance impairment.

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