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J Physiol. 1984 Dec;357:109-25.

Corrective reactions to stumbling in man: neuronal co-ordination of bilateral leg muscle activity during gait.


Electromyogram (e.m.g.) responses of lower leg muscles, and corresponding movements were studied following a perturbation of the limb during walking, produced by either (a) a randomly timed, short acceleration or decelerating impulse applied to the treadmill, or (b) a unilateral triceps surae contraction induced by tibial nerve stimulation. Bilateral e.m.g. responses following the perturbation were specific for the mode of perturbation and depended on the phase of the gait cycle in which the perturbation occurred. Treadmill deceleration evoked a bilateral tibialis anterior activation; acceleration evoked an ipsilateral gastrocnemius and contralateral tibialis anterior activation (latency in either condition and on both sides was 65-75 ms, duration about 150 ms). Tibial nerve stimulation at the beginning of a stance phase, was followed by an ipsilateral tibialis anterior activation; during the swing phase it was followed by an ipsilateral tibialis anterior and contralateral gastrocnemius activation (latency about 90 ms, duration about 100 ms). These patterns differed from the response seen after a unilateral displacement during static standing, which evoked a bilateral tibialis anterior activation. These early responses were in most cases followed by late ipsilateral responses, but the e.m.g. pattern of the next step cycle was usually unchanged, or affected only at its onset. The e.m.g. responses were unaltered by ischaemic nerve blockade of group I afferents, by training effects or by pre-warning of the onset of perturbation (randomly or self-induced). Despite the different e.m.g. responses following a perturbation during gait, the same basic functional mechanism was obviously at work: the early ipsilateral response achieved a repositioning of the displaced foot and leg, while the early contralateral and late ipsilateral responses provided compensation for body displacement. It is suggested that the e.m.g. responses may be mediated predominantly by peripheral information from group II and group III afferents, which modulate the basic motor pattern of spinal interneuronal circuits underlying the respective motor task.

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