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Hum Mov Sci. 2012 Oct;31(5):1268-85. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2012.01.003. Epub 2012 Jun 22.

Modality-specific communication enabling gait synchronization during over-ground side-by-side walking.

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Gonda Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.


An attentive observer will notice that unintentional synchronization of gait between two walkers on the street seems to occur frequently. Nonetheless, the rate of occurrence and motor-sensory mechanisms underlying this phase-locking of gait have only recently begun to be investigated. Previous studies have either been qualitative or carried out under non-natural conditions, e.g., treadmill walking. The present study quantitatively examined the potential sensory mechanisms that contribute to the gait synchronization that occurs when two people walk side by side along a straight, over-ground, pathway. Fourteen pairs of subjects walked 70 m under five conditions that manipulated the available sensory feedback. The modalities studied were visual, auditory, and tactile. Movement was quantified using a trunk-mounted tri-axial accelerometer. A gait synchronization index (GSI) was calculated to quantify the phase synchronization of the gait rhythms. Overall, 36% of the walks exhibited synchrony. Tactile and auditory feedback showed the greatest ability to synchronize, while visual feedback was the least effective. The results show that gait synchronization during natural walking is common, quantifiable, and has modality-specific properties.

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