Patterns of optimization in single- and inter-leg gait dynamics

Max Wuehr, Cauchy Pradhan, Thomas Brandt, Klaus Jahn, Roman Schniepp
Gait & Posture 2014, 39 (2): 733-8

INTRODUCTION: We examined the influence of walking speed on the fluctuation and synchronization dynamics of stride intervals and ground reaction force (GRF) profiles. Our aim was to identify patterns of optimization in the single-leg and inter-leg dynamics at preferred walking speed (PWS). PWS is thought to bring about the most stable walking pattern in terms of the attractor dynamics of the locomotion system.

METHODS: Twenty healthy subjects (29.1 ± 1.8 years; 10 women) walked on a treadmill for 5-min periods at their PWS and at 20, 40, 70, and 80% of maximal walking speed. The coefficient of variation (CV) and long-range correlations α of GRF profile and stride time fluctuations as well as the phase synchronization ρ of inter-leg stride timing were analyzed.

RESULTS: GRF profile α increased with increasing walking speed (p < 0.001). In contrast, stride time CV and α showed a U-shaped speed-dependency with lowest values at PWS (p < 0.05). The speed-dependency of single-leg stride time fluctuations was mirror-inverted in the speed-dependency of inter-leg stride timing ρ; its highest values occurred at PWS (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Fluctuations in GRF profiles become more consistent with increasing walking speed. In contrast, the dynamics of single-leg and inter-leg timing show a collective pattern of optimization at PWS. Less correlated noise in single-leg timing at PWS, imposed on the two coupled oscillating legs, increases the phase synchronization of bilateral timing, thereby enhancing gait stability at the attractor of self-paced walking. Thus, the attractor dynamics of locomotion appear to rely on the interaction of single- and inter-leg timing.

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