Introduction: The aim of this study was to identify movement synergies during normal walking that can differentiate healthy adults in terms of gait adaptability at various speeds. To this end, the association between movement synergies and lower-limb coordination variability or Deviation Phase (DP) was investigated. A secondary aim of this study included an investigation into the moderating effect of these movement synergies on the relationship between DP and the smoothness of arm-swing motion quantified as the normalised jerk index (NJI). Method: A principal component analysis of whole-body marker trajectories from normal-walking treadmill trials at 0.8m/s, 1.2m/s and 1.6m/s was undertaken. Both DP and NJI were derived from approx. 8 minutes of perturbed-walking treadmill trials. Principal movement components, PMk, were derived and the RMS of the 2nd-order differentiation of these PMk (PAkRMS) were included as independent variables representing the magnitude of neuromuscular control in each PMk. The PAkRMS were input into separate maximal linear mixed-effects regression models to explain the variance in DP and (DP x NJI). A stepwise elimination of terms and comparison of models using Anova identified optimal models for both aims. Results: Among the first 7 validated PMk, PA4RMS (double support phase) was identified as an optimal model and demonstrated a significant negative effect on DP however this effect may differ considerably across walking-speeds. An optimal model for describing the variance in (DP x NJI) included a fixed-effect of PA6RMS (Left to Right side weight transfer). Within-participant clustering was prevalent within both optimal models. Interpretation: The hypotheses that individuals who exhibited greater control on specific kinematic synergies would exhibit variations during perturbed walking was substantiated. Supporting evidence for the role of movement synergies during the double-support phase of gait in proactively correcting balance was presented. The potential influence of leg dominance on gait adaptability was also discussed. Future studies should investigate further the role of walking-speed and leg dominance on movement synergies and look to generalize these findings to patient populations.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience