JOURNAL ARTICLE

Locomotor patterns in cerebellar ataxia

G Martino, Y P Ivanenko, M Serrao, A Ranavolo, A d'Avella, F Draicchio, C Conte, C Casali, F Lacquaniti
Journal of Neurophysiology 2014 December 1, 112 (11): 2810-21
25185815
Several studies have demonstrated how cerebellar ataxia (CA) affects gait, resulting in deficits in multijoint coordination and stability. Nevertheless, how lesions of cerebellum influence the locomotor muscle pattern generation is still unclear. To better understand the effects of CA on locomotor output, here we investigated the idiosyncratic features of the spatiotemporal structure of leg muscle activity and impairments in the biomechanics of CA gait. To this end, we recorded the electromyographic (EMG) activity of 12 unilateral lower limb muscles and analyzed kinematic and kinetic parameters of 19 ataxic patients and 20 age-matched healthy subjects during overground walking. Neuromuscular control of gait in CA was characterized by a considerable widening of EMG bursts and significant temporal shifts in the center of activity due to overall enhanced muscle activation between late swing and mid-stance. Patients also demonstrated significant changes in the intersegmental coordination, an abnormal transient in the vertical ground reaction force and instability of limb loading at heel strike. The observed abnormalities in EMG patterns and foot loading correlated with the severity of pathology [International Cooperative Ataxia Rating Scale (ICARS), a clinical ataxia scale] and the changes in the biomechanical output. The findings provide new insights into the physiological role of cerebellum in optimizing the duration of muscle activity bursts and the control of appropriate foot loading during locomotion.

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