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Prog Brain Res. 2011;191:65-74. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53752-2.00013-8.

Locomotor adaptation.

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1
Department of Motor Learning Lab, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Abstract

Motor learning is an essential part of human behavior, but poorly understood in the context of walking control. Here, we discuss our recent work on locomotor adaptation, which is an error driven motor learning process used to alter spatiotemporal elements of walking. Locomotor adaptation can be induced using a split-belt treadmill that controls the speed of each leg independently. Practicing split-belt walking changes the coordination between the legs, resulting in storage of a new walking pattern. Here, we review findings from this experimental paradigm regarding the learning and generalization of locomotor adaptation. First, we discuss how split-belt walking adaptation develops slowly throughout childhood and adolescence. Second, we demonstrate that conscious effort to change the walking pattern during split-belt training can speed up adaptation but worsens retention. In contrast, distraction (i.e., performing a dual task) during training slows adaptation but improves retention. Finally, we show the walking pattern acquired on the split-belt treadmill generalizes to natural walking when vision is removed. This suggests that treadmill learning can be generalized to different contexts if visual cues specific to the treadmill are removed. These findings allow us to highlight the many future questions that will need to be answered in order to develop more rational methods of rehabilitation for walking deficits.

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