Contributions of spatial and temporal control of step length symmetry in the transfer of locomotor adaptation from a motorized to a non-motorized split-belt treadmill

R Soc Open Sci. 2021 Feb 10;8(2):202084. doi: 10.1098/rsos.202084.


Walking requires control of where and when to step for stable interlimb coordination. Motorized split-belt treadmills which constrain each leg to move at different speeds lead to adaptive changes to limb coordination that result in after-effects (e.g. gait asymmetry) on return to normal treadmill walking. These after-effects indicate an underlying neural adaptation. Here, we assessed the transfer of motorized split-belt treadmill adaptations with a custom non-motorized split-belt treadmill where each belt can be self-propelled at different speeds. Transfer was indicated by the presence of after-effects in step length, foot placement and step timing differences. Ten healthy participants adapted on a motorized split-belt treadmill (2 : 1 speed ratio) and were then assessed for after-effects during subsequent non-motorized treadmill and motorized tied-belt treadmill walking. We found that after-effects in step length difference during transfer to non-motorized split-belt walking were primarily associated with step time differences. Conversely, residual after-effects during motorized tied-belt walking following transfer were associated with foot placement differences. Our data demonstrate decoupling of adapted spatial and temporal locomotor control during transfer to a novel context, suggesting that foot placement and step timing control can be independently modulated during walking.

Keywords: generalization; human gait; interlimb coordination; motor adaptation; non-motorized treadmill.

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5289105