Age-related changes in the neuromuscular control of forward and backward locomotion

Arthur H Dewolf, Francesca Sylos-Labini, Germana Cappellini, Yury Ivanenko, Francesco Lacquaniti
2021 PLoS ONE  
Previous studies found significant modification in spatiotemporal parameters of backward walking in healthy older adults, but the age-related changes in the neuromuscular control have been considered to a lesser extent. The present study compared the intersegmental coordination, muscle activity and corresponding modifications of spinal montoneuronal output during both forward and backward walking in young and older adults. Ten older and ten young adults walked forward and backward on a
more » ... at different speeds. Gait kinematics and EMG activity of 14 unilateral lower-limb muscles were recorded. As compared to young adults, the older ones used shorter steps, a more in-phase shank and foot motion, and the activity profiles of muscles innervated from the sacral segments were significantly wider in each walking condition. These findings highlight age-related changes in the neuromuscular control of both forward and backward walking. A striking feature of backward walking was the differential organization of the spinal output as compared to forward gait. In addition, the resulting spatiotemporal map patterns also characterized age-related changes of gait. Finally, modifications of the intersegmental coordination with aging were greater during backward walking. On the whole, the assessment of backward walk in addition to routine forward walk may help identifying or unmasking neuromuscular adjustments of gait to aging.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0246372 pmid:33596223 pmcid:PMC7888655 fatcat:hhxvwdv655g3tm2nfqwzlei5ya