October 21, 2020

Trunk Control during Gait: Walking with Wide and Narrow Step Widths Present Distinct Challenges

The active control of the trunk plays an important role in frontal plane gait stability. We characterized trunk control in response to different step widths using a novel feedback system and examined the different effects of wide and narrow step widths as they each present unique task demands. Twenty healthy young adults walked on a treadmill at 1.25 m/s at five prescribed step widths: 0.33, 1.67, 1, 1.33, 1.67 times preferred step width. Motion capture was used to record trunk kinematics, and surface electromyography was used to record longissimus muscle activation bilaterally. Vector coding was used to analyze coordination between pelvis and thorax segments of the trunk. Results showed that while center of mass only varied across step width in the mediolateral direction, trunk kinematics in all three planes were affected by changes in step width. Angular excursions of the trunk segments increased only with wider widths in the transverse plane. Thorax-pelvis kinematic coordination was affected more by wider widths in transverse plane and by narrower widths in the frontal plane. Peak longissimus activation and bilateral co-activation increased as step widths became narrower. As a control task, walking with varied step widths is not simply a continuum of adjustments from narrow to wide. Rather, narrowing step width and widening step width from the preferred width represent distinct control challenges that are managed in different ways. This study provides foundation for future investigations on the trunk during gait in different populations.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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