Locomotor Control and Learning

Principal Investigator: Amy Bastian

In this project, we will study split belt treadmill walking and walking under natural conditions. We have found that adaptation to split belt walking in adults and children varies in its generalization to other forms of locomotion, as well as other contexts and other speeds. Our previous research has found that children and adults with hemiparesis from cerebral damage but intact cerebellar function can adapt to split belt walking but only benefit temporarily. Rehabilitation for this patient population would require long term adaptation. Possible reasoning for the lack of permanent adaptation is that split belt walking does not match real world conflicts.

Therefore, we will study locomotor adaptation with both healthy control subjects and people with focal brain damage to answer the following questions: 1) How does manipulating sensory context providing optic flow from a virtual reality display influence generalization to natural walking conditions? 2) How does changing attention to one’s movement influence not only generalization but our ability to retain adapted walking patterns for long term improvements in a natural walking setting? 3) How does a training schedule allow for retention of this adapted walking pattern? These studies will provide important information on how to install new locomotor patterns for patients with asymmetric gait patterns resulting from central nervous system damage (e.g. stroke, cerebral palsy) that can be generalized to walking under natural conditions.