Leg muscle activation during gait in Parkinson's disease: influence of body unloading

Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1997 Oct;105(5):400-5. doi: 10.1016/s0924-980x(97)00042-8.


The effect of body unloading (75, 50 and 25% of body weight) on upper and lower leg muscle activation during stepping on a treadmill was investigated in groups of patients with Parkinson's disease and age-matched healthy subjects. The aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that impaired extensor load receptor function exists in the patients. A strong load sensitivity was found for the gastrocnemius (GM) electromyographic (EMG) activity (i.e. EMG amplitude decreased with unloading during stepping in both groups of subjects). The change in the EMG amplitude of the rectus femoris was less dependent upon the load but was observed to be more pronounced in the patients. Upper and lower leg flexor muscles were relatively load-insensitive. The absolute GM EMG amplitude during the stance phase of stepping with normal body loading was significantly smaller in the patients than in the healthy subjects. It is suggested that the latter observation is due to a change in the threshold or bias of the extensor load reflex mechanism in the patients. The slope or gain of this reflex appears to be preserved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electromyography
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology