Involvement of the corticospinal tract in the control of human gait

Prog Brain Res. 2011;192:181-97. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53355-5.00012-9.


Given the inherent mechanical complexity of human bipedal locomotion, and that complete spinal cord lesions in human leads to paralysis with no recovery of gait, it is often suggested that the corticospinal tract (CST) has a more predominant role in the control of walking in humans than in other animals. However, what do we actually know about the contribution of the CST to the control of gait? This chapter will provide an overview of this topic based on the premise that a better understanding of the role of the CST in gait will be essential for the design of evidence-based approaches to rehabilitation therapy, which will enhance gait ability and recovery in patients with lesions to the central nervous system (CNS). We review evidence for the involvement of the primary motor cortex and the CST during normal and perturbed walking and during gait adaptation. We will also discuss knowledge on the CST that has been gained from studies involving CNS lesions, with a particular focus on recent data acquired in people with spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Electromyography
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Walking / physiology