Muscular responses and movement strategies during stumbling over obstacles. J Neurophysiol

Department of Medical Physics and Biophysics, University of Nijmegen, 6525 EZ Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Journal of Neurophysiology (Impact Factor: 2.89). 05/2000; 83(4).
Source: OAI


Although many studies have investigated reflexes after stimulation of either cutaneous or proprioceptive afferents, much less is known about responses after more natural perturbations, such as stumbling over an obstacle. In particular, the phase dependency of these responses and their relation to the stumbling behavior has received little attention. Hence response strategies during stumbling reactions after perturbations at different times in the swing phase of gait were studied. While subjects walked on a treadmill, a rigid obstacle unexpectedly obstructed the forward sway of the foot. All subjects showed an "elevating strategy" after early swing perturbations and a "lowering strategy" after late swing perturbations. During the elevating strategy, the foot was directly lifted over the obstacle through extra knee flexion assisted by ipsilateral biceps femoris (iBF) responses and ankle dorsiflexion assisted by tibialis anterior (iTA) responses. Later, large rectus femoris (iRF) activations induced knee extension to place the foot on the treadmill. During the lowering strategy, the foot was quickly placed on the treadmill and was lifted over the obstacle in the subsequent swing. Foot placement was actively controlled by iRF and iBF responses related to knee extension and deceleration of the forward sway. Activations of iTA mostly preceded the main ipsilateral soleus (iSO) responses. For both strategies, four response peaks could be distinguished with latencies of approximately 40 ms (RP1), approximately 75 ms (RP2), approximately 110 ms (RP3), and approximately 160 ms (RP4). The amplitudes of these response peaks depended on the phase in the step cycle. The phase-dependent modulation of the responses could not be accounted for by differences in stimulation or in background activity and therefore is assumed to be premotoneuronal in origin. In mid swing, both the elevating and lowering strategy could occur. For this phase, the responses of the two strategies could be compared in the absence of phase-dependent response modulation. Both strategies had the same initial electromyographic responses till approximately 100 ms (RP1-RP2) after perturbation. The earliest response (RP1) is assumed to be a short-latency stretch reflex evoked by the considerable impact of the collision, whereas the second (RP2) has features reminiscent of cutaneous and proprioceptive responses. Both these responses did not determine the behavioral response strategy. The functionally important response strategies depended on later responses (RP3-RP4). These data suggest that during stumbling reactions, as a first line of defense, the CNS releases a relatively aspecific response, which is followed by an appropriate behavioral response to avoid the obstacle.

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    • "Recovery strategies were automatically identified by a novel analytic technique. Previous studies have identified recovery strategies by observing placement of the tripped foot relative to the physical obstacle (Eng et al., 1994; Schillings et al., 2000). Since we did not have a physical obstacle, we used foot trajectory to differentiate between strategies (Fig. 2). "
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    ABSTRACT: Appropriately responding to mechanical perturbations during gait is critical to maintain balance and avoid falls. Tripping perturbation onset during swing phase is strongly related to the use of different recovery strategies; however, it is insufficient to fully explain how strategies are chosen. The dynamic interactions between the foot and the obstacle may further explain observed recovery strategies but the relationship between such contextual elements and strategy selection has not been explored. In this study, we investigated whether perturbation onset, duration and side could explain strategy selection for all of swing phase. We hypothesized that perturbations of longer duration would elicit lowering and delayed-lowering strategies earlier in swing phase than shorter perturbations. We developed a custom device to trip subjects multiple times while they walked on a treadmill. Seven young, healthy subjects were tripped on the left or right side at 10% to 80% of swing phase for 150 ms, 250 ms or 350 ms. Strategies were characterized by foot motion post-perturbation and identified by an automated algorithm. A multinomial logistic model was used to investigate the effect of perturbation onset, side, and the interaction between duration and onset on recovery strategy selection. Side perturbed did not affect strategy selection. Perturbation duration interacted with onset, limiting the use of elevating strategies to earlier in swing phase with longer perturbations. The choice between delayed-lowering and lowering strategies was not affected by perturbation duration. Although these variables did not fully explain strategy selection, they improved the prediction of strategy used in response to tripping perturbations throughout swing phase.
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    • "Furthermore, sensory input from the skin mechanoreceptors of the paw are involved in positioning the paws and, therefore, become increasingly important during complex locomotor tasks in which precise paw placement is required, e.g., ladder walking in the cat [61]. Skin receptors on the dorsal foot play a role during the swing phase of walking over obstacles in both cats [62] and humans [63] and cutaneous input from the plantar surface of the paw reinforces extensor activity in decerebrated cats walking on a treadmill [64]. Group II hip flexor afferents, group I ankle extensor afferents, and low-threshold cutaneous afferents from the cat paw are assumed to have direct access to spinal locomotor circuitries with the ability to reset or entrain fictive locomotion in adult decerebrated cats [65]. "
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