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J Neurol. 2011 Aug;258(8):1406-12. doi: 10.1007/s00415-011-6063-4. Epub 2011 May 8.

Quadrupedal coordination of bipedal gait: implications for movement disorders.

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Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Balgrist University Hospital, Forchstr. 340, Ch-8008 Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


During recent years, evidence has come up that bipedal locomotion is based on a quadrupedal limb coordination. A task-dependent neuronal coupling of upper and lower limbs allows one to involve the arms during gait but to uncouple this connection during voluntarily guided arm/hand movements. Hence, despite the evolution of a strong cortico-spinal control of hand/arm movements in humans, a quadrupedal limb coordination persists during locomotion. This has consequences for the limb coordination in movement disorders such as in Parkinson's disease (PD) and after stroke. In patients suffering PD, the quadrupedal coordination of gait is basically preserved. The activation of upper limb muscles during locomotion is strong, similar as in age-matched healthy subjects although arm swing is reduced. This suggests a contribution of biomechanical constraints to immobility. In post-stroke subjects a close interactions between unaffected and affected sides with an impaired processing of afferent input takes place. An afferent volley applied to a leg nerve of the unaffected leg leads to a normal reflex activation of proximal arm muscles of both sides. In contrast, when the nerve of the affected leg was stimulated, neither on the affected nor in the unaffected arm muscles EMG responses appear. Muscle activation on the affected arm becomes normalized by influences of the unaffected side during locomotion. These observations have consequences for the rehabilitation of patients suffering movement disorders.

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