Task-specific modulation of cutaneous reflexes expressed at functionally relevant gait cycle phases during level and incline walking and stair climbing

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid


Reflexes are exquisitely sensitive to the motor task that is being performed at the time they are evoked; in other words, they are “task-dependent”. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which the pattern of reflex modulation is conserved across three locomotor tasks that differ in muscle activity, joint kinematics, and stability demands. Subjects performed continuous level and incline walking on a treadmill and stair climbing on a stepping mill. Cutaneous reflexes were evoked by delivering trains of electrical stimulation to the sural nerve at the ankle at an intensity of two times the radiating threshold. Electromyographic (EMG) recordings were collected continuously from muscles in the arms, legs and trunk. Results showed that middle-latency reflex modulation patterns were generally conserved across the three locomotor tasks with a few notable exceptions related to specific functional requirements. For example, a reflex reversal was observed for tibialis anterior during stair climbing, which may be indicative of a specific adaptation to the task constraints. Overall our data suggest that the underlying neural mechanisms involved in coordinating level walking can be modified to also coordinate other locomotor tasks such as incline walking and stair climbing. Therefore, there may be considerable overlap in the neural control of different forms of locomotion.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles