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Adapting locomotion to different surface compliances: neuromuscular responses and changes in movement dynamics

, : Adapting locomotion to different surface compliances: neuromuscular responses and changes in movement dynamics. Journal of Neurophysiology 94(3): 1733-1750

Knowledge of how the nervous system deals with surfaces with different physical properties such as compliance that challenge balance during locomotion is of importance as we are constantly faced with these situations every day. The purpose of this study was to examine the control of center of mass (COM) and lower limb dynamics and recovery response modulation of muscle activity during locomotion across an unexpected compliant surface and in particular, scaling behavior across different levels of compliance. Eight young adults walked along a walkway and stepped on an unexpected compliant surface in the middle of the travel path. There were three different levels of surface compliance, and participants experienced either no compliant surface or one of the three compliant surfaces during each trial that were presented in a blocked or random fashion. Whole body kinematics were collected along with surface electromyography (EMG) of selected bilateral lower limb and trunk muscles. The recovery response to the first compliant-surface trial demonstrated muscle onset latencies between 97 and 175 ms, and activity was modulated while on the compliant surface. Vertical COM trajectory was not preserved after contact with the compliant surface: peak vertical COM, while on the compliant surface was lower than when on stable ground. Perturbed-limb knee flexion after toe-off increased with increased surface compliance, which enabled toe clearance with the ground to be similar to control trials. The results suggest that stepping off of a compliant surface is actively modulated by the CNS and is geared toward maintaining dynamic stability.


PMID: 15888535

DOI: 10.1152/jn.00019.2005

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