Locomotion in stroke subjects: Interactions between unaffected and affected sides

Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Balgrist University Hospital, Forchstr. 340, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
Brain (Impact Factor: 9.2). 02/2011; 134(Pt 3):721-31. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awq370
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study was to evaluate the sensorimotor interactions between unaffected and affected sides of post-stroke subjects during locomotion. In healthy subjects, stimulation of the tibial nerve during the mid-stance phase is followed by electromyography responses not only in the ipsilateral tibialis anterior, but also in the proximal arm muscles of both sides, with larger amplitudes prior to swing over an obstacle compared with normal swing. In post-stroke subjects, the electromyography responses were stronger on both sides when the tibial nerve of the unaffected leg was stimulated compared with stimulation of the affected leg. This difference was more pronounced when stimuli were applied prior to swing over an obstacle than prior to normal swing. This indicates an impaired processing of afferent input from the affected leg resulting in attenuated and little task-modulated reflex responses in the arm muscles on both sides. In contrast, an afferent volley from the unaffected leg resulted in larger electromyography responses, even in the muscles of the affected arm. Arm muscle activations were stronger during swing over an obstacle than during normal swing, with no difference in electromyography amplitudes between the unaffected and affected sides. It is concluded that the deficits of the affected arm are compensated for by influences from the unaffected side. These observations indicate strong mutual influences between unaffected and affected sides during locomotion of post-stroke subjects, which might be used to optimize rehabilitation approaches.

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