Chapter

Emerging Principles in the Learning and Generalization of New Walking Patterns

Erin V. L. Vasudevan, Amy J. Bastian and Gelsy Torres-Oviedo

in Motor Control

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195395273
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199863518 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195395273.003.0016
Emerging Principles in the Learning and Generalization of New Walking Patterns

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Human locomotion is remarkably flexible. We can quickly adapt our stepping pattern to temporary changes in the environment, such as icy sidewalks or uneven terrain. Additionally, long-term adaptations can result from more permanent changes produced by growth or damage. Both short- and long-term adaptive processes can be studied with a split-belt treadmill, a device that has two belts that control the speed of each leg independently. Practicing split-belt walking changes the coordination between the legs, and this new coordination is stored as a modified walking pattern. Recently, this experimental paradigm was used to investigate the generalization of a newly learned walking pattern to other tasks and environments. This learning was disrupted by cerebellar damage, but was undisturbed by cerebral damage following a stroke or hemispherectomy. This evidence suggests that the cerebellum, but not the cerebrum, is critical for predictive locomotor adjustments and offers the exciting possibility of improving locomotor patterns of people with cerebral damage through adaptive processes. Indeed, by using the split-belt treadmill to exaggerate a gait asymmetry, hemiparesis due to stroke or hemispherectomy can be corrected. The exaggeration of the deficit drives the nervous system to correct it, thus improving walking symmetry. This chapter discusses current research investigating locomotor adaptation and how to optimize adaptive processes for the purpose of rehabilitation.

Keywords: human locomotion; stepping pattern; adaptive processes; split-belt walking; walking pattern; gait asymmetry; hemiparesis; stroke; hemisperectomy

Chapter.  4858 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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