Characteristics of locomotor control in children with cerebral palsy

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1998 Jul;22(4):579-82. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(97)00047-x.


The typical features of electromyographical (EMG) recordings from children with cerebral palsy (CP) consist of a coactivation of antagonistic leg muscles during the stance phase, a low and tonic activation of extensor EMG, and enhanced stretch reflex excitability with short latency. This characteristic reflex pattern is suggested to reflect an arrested normal maturation. The strong similarity between the walking pattern of CP children (8-16 years of age) and the reflex pattern during the process of learning to walk (7-10 months of age) lets us draw the following conclusion. During normal maturation a close parallelism exists between the control of group I afferent inhibition with the suppression of mono/oligosynaptic stretch reflexes and group II afferent facilitation with the increase of polysynaptic (mainly extensor) EMG responses. This maturation depends on supraspinal control, and does not occur in CP children. In adult patients with a supraspinal lesion, a regression to this early reflex pattern takes place.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology*