Date of Award

Fall 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Schmit, Brian D.

Second Advisor

Hyngstrom, Allison S.

Third Advisor

Scheidt, Robert A.


Maintaining dynamic balance is an important component of walking function that is likely impaired in chronic stroke survivors, evidenced by an increased prevalence of falls. Dynamic balance control requires maintaining the center of mass (COM) within the base of support during movement. During walking, dynamic balance control is achieved largely by modifying foot placement to adjust the base of support. However, chronic stroke survivors have difficulty with both precision control of foot placement, as well as reduced control of COM movement. The objective of this dissertation was to characterize dynamic balance control strategies during walking in chronic stroke survivors. Additionally, we evaluated whether altered sensory feedback could be used to improve balance control in stroke survivors. Dynamic balance control was characterized during challenging walking conditions in stroke survivors and age-matched neurologically intact individuals. Adaptations to perturbations in frontal plane COM, induced using a custom cable-driven device, were used to further probe mechanisms of dynamic balance control. Despite larger amounts of COM movement and step widths, chronic stroke survivors produced a similar ratio of step width to COM sway, indicating that simply increasing step width does not produce a safer walking pattern for the stroke group. Placement of the paretic limb was unchanged in response to the external perturbations of trunk movement, which might underlie deficits in dynamic balance control. Augmented sensory feedback improved paretic foot placement and COM control, when applied during a stepping or treadmill walking task. These results provide insight into differences in dynamic balance control in stroke while also demonstrating that augmented sensory feedback signals might be used to improve balance control, and thus walking function for chronic stroke survivors.