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J Neurophysiol. 2015 Jun 1;113(10):3905-14. doi: 10.1152/jn.00779.2014. Epub 2015 Apr 1.

A marching-walking hybrid induces step length adaptation and transfers to natural walking.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; Motion Analysis Laboratory, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland;
Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California; and.
Motion Analysis Laboratory, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland; Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland


Walking is highly adaptable to new demands and environments. We have previously studied adaptation of locomotor patterns via a split-belt treadmill, where subjects learn to walk with one foot moving faster than the other. Subjects learn to adapt their walking pattern by changing the location (spatial) and time (temporal) of foot placement. Here we asked whether we can induce adaptation of a specific walking pattern when one limb does not "walk" but instead marches in place (i.e., marching-walking hybrid). The marching leg's movement is limited during the stance phase, and thus certain sensory signals important for walking may be reduced. We hypothesized that this would produce a spatial-temporal strategy different from that of normal split-belt adaptation. Healthy subjects performed two experiments to determine whether they could adapt their spatial-temporal pattern of step lengths during the marching-walking hybrid and whether the learning transfers to over ground walking. Results showed that the hybrid group did adapt their step lengths, but the time course of adaptation and deadaption was slower than that for the split-belt group. We also observed that the hybrid group utilized a mostly spatial strategy whereas the split-belt group utilized both spatial and temporal strategies. Surprisingly, we found no significant difference between the hybrid and split-belt groups in over ground transfer. Moreover, the hybrid group retained more of the learned pattern when they returned to the treadmill. These findings suggest that physical rehabilitation with this marching-walking paradigm on conventional treadmills may produce changes in symmetry comparable to what is observed during split-belt training.


gait; motor learning; rehabilitation; split-belt walking

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