Locomotor adaptation to resistance during treadmill training transfers to overground walking in human SCI

Sheng-Che Yen, Brian D Schmit, Jill M Landry, Heidi Roth, Ming Wu
Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation Cérébrale 2012, 216 (3): 473-82
Treadmill training has been used as a promising technique to improve overground walking in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Previous findings showed that a gait pattern may adapt to a force perturbation during treadmill training and show aftereffects following removal of the force perturbation. We hypothesized that aftereffects would transfer to overground walking to a greater extent when the force perturbation was resisting rather than assisting leg swing during treadmill training. Ten subjects with incomplete SCI were recruited into this study for two treadmill training sessions: one using swing resistance and the other using swing assistance during treadmill stepping. A controlled resistance/assistance was provided to the subjects' right knee using a customized cable-driven robot. The subjects' spatial and temporal parameters were recorded during the training. The same parameters during overground walking were also recorded before and after the training session using an instrumented walkway. Results indicated that stride length during treadmill stepping increased following the release of resistance load and the aftereffect transferred to overground walking. In contrast, stride length during treadmill stepping decreased following the release of assistance load, but the aftereffect did not transfer to overground walking. Providing swing resistance during treadmill training could enhance the active involvement of the subjects in the gait motor task, thereby aiding in the transfer to overground walking. Such a paradigm may be useful as an adjunct approach to improve the locomotor function in patients with incomplete SCI.

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