Seeing Is Believing: Effects of Visual Contextual Cues on Learning and Transfer of Locomotor Adaptation

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 12/2010; 30(50):17015-22. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4205-10.2010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Devices such as robots or treadmills are often used to drive motor learning because they can create novel physical environments. However, the learning (i.e., adaptation) acquired on these devices only partially generalizes to natural movements. What determines the specificity of motor learning, and can this be reliably made more general? Here we investigated the effect of visual cues on the specificity of split-belt walking adaptation. We systematically removed vision to eliminate the visual-proprioceptive mismatch that is a salient cue specific to treadmills: vision indicates that we are not moving while leg proprioception indicates that we are. We evaluated the adaptation of temporal and spatial features of gait (i.e., timing and location of foot landing), their transfer to walking over ground, and washout of adaptation when subjects returned to the treadmill. Removing vision during both training (i.e., on the treadmill) and testing (i.e., over ground) strongly improved the transfer of treadmill adaptation to natural walking. Removing vision only during training increased transfer of temporal adaptation, whereas removing vision only during testing increased the transfer of spatial adaptation. This dissociation reveals differences in adaptive mechanisms for temporal and spatial features of walking. Finally training without vision increased the amount that was learned and was linked to the variability in the behavior during adaptation. In conclusion, contextual cues can be manipulated to modulate the magnitude, transfer, and washout of device-induced learning in humans. These results bring us closer to our ultimate goal of developing rehabilitation strategies that improve movements beyond the clinical setting.

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    ABSTRACT: Background: Incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) leads to motor and sensory deficits. Even in ambulatory persons with good motor function an impaired proprioception may result in an insecure gait. Limited internal afferent feedback (FB) can be compensated by provision of external FB by therapists or technical systems. Progress in computational power of motion analysis systems allows for implementation of instrumented real-time FB. The aim of this study was to test if individuals with iSCI can normalize their gait kinematics during FB and more importantly maintain an improvement after therapy. Methods: Individuals with chronic iSCI had to complete 6 days (one day per week) of treadmill-based FB training with a 2 weeks pause after 3 days of training. Each day consists of an initial gait analysis followed by 2 blocks with FB / no-FB. During FB the deviation of the mean knee angle during swing from a speed matched reference (norm distance, ND) is visualized as a number. The task consists of lowering the ND, which was updated after every stride. Prior to the tests in patients the in-house developed FB implementation was tested in healthy subjects with an artificial movement task. Results: 4 of 5 study participants benefited from FB in the short and medium term. Decrease of mean ND was highest during the first 3 sessions (from 3.93 ± 1.54 to 2.18 ± 1.04). After the pause mean ND stayed in the same range than before. In the last 3 sessions the mean ND decreased slower (2.40 ± 1.18 to 2.20 ± 0.90). Direct influences of FB ranged from 60% to 15% of reduction in mean ND compared to initial gait analysis and from 20% to 1% compared to no-FB sessions. Conclusions: Instrumented kinematic real-time FB may serve as an effective adjunct to established gait therapies in normalizing the gait pattern after incomplete spinal cord injury. Further studies with larger patient groups need to prove long term learning and the successful transfer of newly acquired skills to activities of daily living.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 06/2014; 8(416). DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00416 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background. Step length asymmetry (SLA) is a common hallmark of gait poststroke. Though conventionally viewed as a spatial deficit, SLA can result from differences in where the feet are placed relative to the body (step position strategy), the timing between foot strikes (step time strategy), or the velocity of the body relative to the feet (step velocity strategy). Objective. The goal of this study was to characterize the relative contributions of each of these strategies to SLA. Methods. We developed an analytical model that parses SLA into independent step position, step time, and step velocity contributions. This model was validated by reproducing SLA values for 25 healthy participants when their natural symmetric gait was perturbed on a split-belt treadmill moving at either a 2:1 or 3:1 belt-speed ratio. We then applied the validated model to quantify step position, step time, and step velocity contributions to SLA in 15 stroke survivors while walking at their self-selected speed. Results. SLA was predicted precisely by summing the derived contributions, regardless of the belt-speed ratio. Although the contributions to SLA varied considerably across our sample of stroke survivors, the step position contribution tended to oppose the other 2-possibly as an attempt to minimize overall SLA. Conclusions. Our results suggest that changes in where the feet are placed or changes in interlimb timing could be used as compensatory strategies to reduce overall SLA in stroke survivors. These results may allow clinicians and researchers to identify patient-specific gait abnormalities and personalize their therapeutic approaches accordingly. © The Author(s) 2015.
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    ABSTRACT: Background and Purpose: Locomotor adaptation is a form of short-term learning that enables gait modifications and reduces movement errors when the environment changes. This adaptation is critical for community ambulation for example, when walking on different surfaces. While many individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) recover basic ambulation, less is known about recovery of more complex locomotor skills, like adaptation. The purpose of this study was to investigate how TBI affects locomotor adaptation. Methods: Fourteen adults with TBI and 11 nondisabled comparison participants walked for 15 minutes on a split-belt treadmill with 1 belt moving at 0.7 m/s, and the other at 1.4 m/s. Subsequently, aftereffects were assessed and de-adapted during 15 minutes of tied-belt walking (both belts at 0.7 m/s). Results: Participants with TBI showed greater asymmetry in inter-limb coordination on split-belts than the comparison group. Those with TBI did not adapt back to baseline symmetry, and some individuals did not store significant aftereffects. Greater asymmetry on split-belts and smaller aftereffects were associated with greater ataxia. Discussion: Participants with TBI were more perturbed by walking on split-belts and showed some impairment in adaptation. This suggests a reduced ability to learn a new form of coordination to compensate for environmental changes. Multiple interacting factors, including cerebellar damage and impairments in higher-level cognitive processes, may influence adaptation post-TBI. Conclusions: Gait adaptation to novel environment demands is impaired in persons with chronic TBI and may be an important skill to target in rehabilitation. Video Abstract Available (See Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, for more insights from the authors.
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