Background: Gait asymmetry, which is common after stroke, is typically characterized using spatiotemporal parameters of gait that do not consider the aspect of movement coordination. In this manuscript, we examined whether an avatar-based feedback provided as a single-session intervention to improve gait symmetry also improved inter-limb coordination among people with stroke and we examined the relationship between changes in coordination and step length symmetry.
Methods: Twelve stroke participants walked on a self-paced treadmill with and without a self-avatar that replicated their locomotor movements in real time. Continuous relative phase and angular coefficient of correspondence calculated using bilateral sagittal hip movements were used to quantify temporal and spatial interlimb coordination, respectively. Spatial gait symmetry, previously shown to improve with the avatar feedback, was quantified using step length ratio between both limbs, with the largest value as numerator.
Findings: Participants who improved their spatial symmetry during avatar exposure also improved their temporal coordination, while spatial coordination remained unchanged. Overall, improvements in spatial symmetry correlated positively with improvements in temporal coordination. The non-paretic hip and paretic ankle angle excursion in the sagittal plane also significantly increased during avatar exposure.
Interpretation: Improvements in gait symmetry may be explained by changes in interlimb coordination. Current data and existing literature further suggest that such improvements are largely driven by adaptations in non-paretic leg movements, notably at the hip. By providing real-time information on walking movements not affordable in other ways, avatar-based feedback shows great potential to improve gait symmetry and interlimb coordination post-stroke.
Keywords: Avatar; Gait asymmetry; Inter-limb coordination; Real-time feedback; Stroke; Virtual reality.
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