Dynamics of corticospinal motor control during overground and treadmill walking in humans

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Abstract

Increasing evidence suggests cortical involvement in the control of human gait. However, the nature of corticospinal interactions remains poorly understood. We performed time-frequency analysis of electrophysiological activity acquired during treadmill and overground walking in 22 healthy, young adults. Participants walked at their preferred speed (4.2, SD 0.4 km/h), which was matched across both gait conditions. Event-related power, corticomuscular coherence (CMC), and intertrial coherence (ITC) were assessed for EEG from bilateral sensorimotor cortices and EMG from the bilateral tibialis anterior (TA) muscles. Cortical power, CMC, and ITC at theta, alpha, beta, and gamma frequencies (4 – 45 Hz) increased during the double support phase of the gait cycle for both overground and treadmill walking. High beta (21–30 Hz) CMC and ITC of EMG was significantly increased during overground compared with treadmill walking, as well as EEG power in theta band (4 –7 Hz). The phase spectra revealed positive time lags at alpha, beta, and gamma frequencies, indicating that the EEG response preceded the EMG response. The parallel increases in power, CMC, and ITC during double support suggest evoked responses at spinal and cortical populations rather than a modulation of ongoing corticospinal oscillatory interactions. The evoked responses are not consistent with the idea of synchronization of ongoing corticospinal oscillations but instead suggest coordinated cortical and spinal inputs during the double support phase. Frequency-band dependent differences in power, CMC, and ITC between overground and treadmill walking suggest differing neural control for the two gait modalities, emphasizing the task-dependent nature of neural processes during human walking. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We investigated cortical and spinal activity during overground and treadmill walking in healthy adults. Parallel increases in power, corticomuscular coherence, and intertrial coherence during double support suggest evoked responses at spinal and cortical populations rather than a modulation of ongoing corticospinal oscillatory interactions. These findings identify neurophysiological mechanisms that are important for understanding cortical control of human gait in health and disease.

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Roeder, L., Boonstra, T. W., Smith, S. S., & Kerr, G. K. (2018). Dynamics of corticospinal motor control during overground and treadmill walking in humans. Journal of Neurophysiology, 120(3), 1017–1031. https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00613.2017

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