Unique controlling mechanisms underlying walking with two handheld poles in contrast to those of conventional walking as revealed by split-belt locomotor adaptation
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Pole walking (PW), a form of locomotion in which a person holds a pole in each hand, enhances the involvement of alternating upper-limb movement. While this quadruped-like walking increases postural stability for bipedal conventional walking (CW), in terms of the neural controlling mechanisms underlying the two locomotion forms (PW and CW), the similarities and differences remain unknown. The purpose of this study was to compare the neural control of PW and CW from the perspective of locomotor adaptation to a novel environment on a split-belt treadmill. We measured the anterior component of the ground reaction (braking) force during and after split-belt treadmill walking in 12 healthy subjects. The results demonstrated that (1) PW delayed locomotor adaptation when compared with CW; (2) the degrees of transfer of the acquired movement pattern to CW and PW were not different, regardless of whether the novel movement pattern was learned in CW or PW; and (3) the movement pattern learned in CW was washed out by subsequent execution in PW, whereas the movement pattern learned in PW was not completely washed out by subsequent execution in CW. These results suggest that the neural control mechanisms of PW and CW are not independent, and it is possible that PW could be a locomotor behavior built upon a basic locomotor pattern of CW.
KeywordsWalking adaptation Locomotion Motor learning Pole walking
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