Stepping Responses to Treadmill Perturbations vary with Severity of Motor Deficits in Human SCI
American Physiological Society
Journal of Neurophysiology
In this study, we investigated the responses to tread perturbations during human stepping on a treadmill. Our approach was to test the effects of perturbations to a single leg using a split-belt treadmill in healthy participants and in participants with varying severity of spinal cord injury (SCI). We recruited 11 people with incomplete SCI and 5 noninjured participants. As participants walked on an instrumented treadmill, the belt on one side was stopped or accelerated briefly during mid to late stance. A majority of participants initiated an unnecessary swing when the treadmill was stopped in mid stance, although the likelihood of initiating a step was decreased in participants with more severe SCI. Accelerating or decelerating one belt of the treadmill during stance altered the characteristics of swing. We observed delayed swing initiation when the belt was decelerated (i.e. the hip was in a more flexed position at time of swing) and advanced swing initiation with acceleration (i.e. hip extended at swing initiation). Further, the timing and leg posture of heel strike appeared to remain constant, reflected by a sagittal plane hip angle at heel strike that remained the same regardless of the perturbation. In summary, our results supported the current understanding of the role of sensory feedback and central drive in the control of stepping in participants with incomplete SCI and noninjured participants. In particular, the observation of unnecessary swing during a stop perturbation highlights the interdependence of central and sensory drive in walking control.