A dual-learning paradigm can simultaneously train multiple characteristics of walking

J Neurophysiol. 2016 May 1;115(5):2692-700. doi: 10.1152/jn.00090.2016. Epub 2016 Mar 9.


Impairments in human motor patterns are complex: what is often observed as a single global deficit (e.g., limping when walking) is actually the sum of several distinct abnormalities. Motor adaptation can be useful to teach patients more normal motor patterns, yet conventional training paradigms focus on individual features of a movement, leaving others unaddressed. It is known that under certain conditions, distinct movement components can be simultaneously adapted without interference. These previous "dual-learning" studies focused solely on short, planar reaching movements, yet it is unknown whether these findings can generalize to a more complex behavior like walking. Here we asked whether a dual-learning paradigm, incorporating two distinct motor adaptation tasks, can be used to simultaneously train multiple components of the walking pattern. We developed a joint-angle learning task that provided biased visual feedback of sagittal joint angles to increase peak knee or hip flexion during the swing phase of walking. Healthy, young participants performed this task independently or concurrently with another locomotor adaptation task, split-belt treadmill adaptation, where subjects adapted their step length symmetry. We found that participants were able to successfully adapt both components of the walking pattern simultaneously, without interference, and at the same rate as adapting either component independently. This leads us to the interesting possibility that combining rehabilitation modalities within a single training session could be used to help alleviate multiple deficits at once in patients with complex gait impairments.

Keywords: adaptation; dual task; interference; locomotion; motor learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Joints / innervation
  • Joints / physiology
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Walking / physiology*