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Neuroscientist. 2006 Oct;12(5):379-89.

Spinal and brain control of human walking: implications for retraining of walking.

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Department of Physical Therapy, the Centre for Neuroscience; University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


In this update, the authors will discuss evidence for both spinal and brain regulation of walking in humans. They will consider the sensory control of walking in young babies and spinal cord-injured adults, two models with weak descending input from the brain, to suggest that subcortical structures are important in shaping walking behavior. Based on evidence from development, the authors suggest that the primitive pattern of walking seen in babies forms the base upon which additional features are added by supraspinal input as independent walking develops. Increasing evidence suggests the motor cortex is important in the control of level-ground walking in adults, in contrast to quadrupeds. This brain input seems particularly important for distal flexors in the leg. Finally, the authors will consider evidence that the recovery of walking after incomplete spinal cord injuries is dependent on the presence of descending input from the motor cortex and our ability to strengthen that input. These findings imply that training methods for improving walking after injury to the nervous system must promote the involvement of both spinal and brain circuits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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