Skip to Main Content
We investigated input (stimulus)-output (response) relations of the corticospinal pathway in the lower limb muscles during passive stepping using a robotic driven gait orthosis. Nine healthy adult subjects passively stepped with 40% body weight unloading (ground stepping) and 100% body weight unloading in the air (air stepping). During passive stepping, the motor evoked potentials (MEPs) of the lower limb muscles elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) were recorded at late-stance, early-, and late-swing phases of 2 stepping conditions. The input-output relation at each phase of the stepping conditions was obtained by increasing stimulus intensity in 5% increments from 40% to 70% of maximal stimulator output. The slopes of input-output relations were steeper at the early-swing phase in the rectus femoris muscle and at the late-stance and late-swing phases in the biceps femoris muscle in both stepping conditions. There were no significant differences in the MEP responses of the rectus femoris and biceps femoris muscles at each phase between the 2 conditions. Low muscle activity was seen at the late-stance phase of ground stepping in the soleus muscle and the MEP amplitude at this phase became larger. The slopes in the tibialis anterior muscle were steep at the early- and late-swing phases of ground stepping. There was a significant difference in the MEPs of the tibialis anterior muscle between the late-swing phases in ground and air stepping. The present study indicates that corticospinal excitability to the lower limb muscles is modulated by sensory inputs elicited by passive stepping.