Gait asymmetry during early split-belt walking is related to perception of belt speed difference

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Sep;114(3):1705-12. doi: 10.1152/jn.00937.2014. Epub 2015 Jul 22.


Gait adaptation is essential for humans to walk according to the different demands of the environment. Although locomotor adaptation has been studied in different contexts and in various patient populations, the mechanisms behind locomotor adaptation are still not fully understood. The aim of the present study was to test two opposing hypotheses about the control of split-belt walking, one based on avoidance of limping and the other on avoiding limb excursion asymmetry. We assessed how well cerebellar patients with focal lesions and healthy control participants could sense differences between belt speeds during split-belt treadmill walking and correlated this to split-belt adaptation parameters. The ability to perceive differences between belt speeds was similar between the cerebellar patients and the healthy controls. After combining all participants, we observed a significant inverse correlation between stance time symmetry and limb excursion symmetry during the early phase of split-belt walking. Participants who were better able to perceive belt speed differences (e.g., they had a lower threshold and hence were able to detect a smaller speed difference) walked with the smallest asymmetry in stance time and the largest asymmetry in limb excursion. Our data support the hypothesis that humans aim to minimize (temporal) limping rather than (spatial) limb excursion asymmetry when using their perception of belt speed differences in the early phase of adaptation to split-belt walking.

Keywords: ataxia; cerebellum; limping; locomotion; temporal gait symmetry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebellar Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception*
  • Walking*