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Obstacle avoidance locomotor tasks: adaptation, memory and skill transfer


Kloter, Evelyne; Dietz, Volker (2012). Obstacle avoidance locomotor tasks: adaptation, memory and skill transfer. European Journal of Neuroscience, 35(10):1613-1621.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the neural basis of adaptation, memory and skill transfer during human stepping over obstacles. Whilst walking on a treadmill, subjects had to perform uni- and bilateral obstacle steps. Acoustic feedback information about foot clearance was provided. Non-noxious electrical stimuli were applied to the right tibial nerve during the mid-stance phase of the right leg, i.e. 'prior' to the right or 'during' the left leg swing over the obstacle. The electromyogram (EMG) responses evoked by these stimuli in arm and leg muscles are known to reflect the neural coordination during normal and obstacle steps. The leading and trailing legs rapidly adapted foot clearance during obstacle steps with small further changes when the same obstacle condition was repeated. This adaptation was associated with a corresponding decrease in arm and leg muscle reflex EMG responses. Arm (but not leg) muscle EMG responses were greater when the stimulus was applied 'during' obstacle crossing by the left leg leading compared with stimulation 'prior' to right leg swing over the obstacle. A corresponding difference existed in arm muscle background EMG. The results indicate that, firstly, the somatosensory information gained by the performance and adaptation of uni- and bilateral obstacle stepping becomes transferred to the trailing leg in a context-specific manner. Secondly, EMG activity in arm and leg muscles parallels biomechanical adaptation of foot clearance. Thirdly, a consistently high EMG activity in the arm muscles during swing over the obstacle is required for equilibrium control. Thus, such a precision locomotor task is achieved by a context-specific, coordinated activation of arm and leg muscles for performance and equilibrium control that includes adaptation, memory and skill transfer.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the neural basis of adaptation, memory and skill transfer during human stepping over obstacles. Whilst walking on a treadmill, subjects had to perform uni- and bilateral obstacle steps. Acoustic feedback information about foot clearance was provided. Non-noxious electrical stimuli were applied to the right tibial nerve during the mid-stance phase of the right leg, i.e. 'prior' to the right or 'during' the left leg swing over the obstacle. The electromyogram (EMG) responses evoked by these stimuli in arm and leg muscles are known to reflect the neural coordination during normal and obstacle steps. The leading and trailing legs rapidly adapted foot clearance during obstacle steps with small further changes when the same obstacle condition was repeated. This adaptation was associated with a corresponding decrease in arm and leg muscle reflex EMG responses. Arm (but not leg) muscle EMG responses were greater when the stimulus was applied 'during' obstacle crossing by the left leg leading compared with stimulation 'prior' to right leg swing over the obstacle. A corresponding difference existed in arm muscle background EMG. The results indicate that, firstly, the somatosensory information gained by the performance and adaptation of uni- and bilateral obstacle stepping becomes transferred to the trailing leg in a context-specific manner. Secondly, EMG activity in arm and leg muscles parallels biomechanical adaptation of foot clearance. Thirdly, a consistently high EMG activity in the arm muscles during swing over the obstacle is required for equilibrium control. Thus, such a precision locomotor task is achieved by a context-specific, coordinated activation of arm and leg muscles for performance and equilibrium control that includes adaptation, memory and skill transfer.

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4 citations in Web of Science®
4 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:17 April 2012
Deposited On:19 Dec 2012 15:55
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:10
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0953-816X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-9568.2012.08066.x
PubMed ID:22506969

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