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Online mutability of step direction during rapid stepping reactions evoked by postural perturbation

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3 Author(s)
B. P. Tripp ; Sunnybrook & Women's Coll. Health Sci. Center, Toronto, Ont., Canada ; W. E. McIlroy ; B. E. Maki

Stepping reactions are often triggered rapidly in response to loss of balance. It has been unclear whether spatial step parameters are defined at time of step-initiation or whether they can be modulated online, during step execution, in response to sensory feedback about the evolving state of instability. This study explored the capacity to actively alter step direction subsequent to step initiation in six healthy young-adult subjects. To elicit forward-step reactions, subjects were released suddenly from a tethered forward lean. A second perturbation (medio-lateral support-surface translation) was applied at lags of 0-200 ms. Active reaction to the second perturbation was determined primarily through analysis of swing-leg hip-abductor activation. In addition, to gauge the biomechanical consequence of the changes in muscle activation, we compared the measured medio-lateral swing-foot displacement to that predicted by a simple passive mechanical model. Perturbations at 0-100 ms lag evoked active medio-lateral swing-foot deviation, allowing balance to be recovered with a single step. However, when the second perturbation occurred near foot-off (200-ms lag), there was no evidence of active alteration of step direction and subjects typically required additional steps to recover balance. The results suggest that step direction can be reparameterized during early stages of stepping reactions, but that step direction was not actively modulated in response to perturbation arising near start of swing phase.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering  (Volume:12 ,  Issue: 1 )