Assessing Inter-joint Coordination during Walking

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Title: Assessing Inter-joint Coordination during Walking
Author: Chiu, Shiu-Ling
Abstract: Coordination indicates the ability to assemble and maintain a series of proper relations between joints or segments during motions. In Dynamical Systems Theory (DST), movement patterns are results of a synergistic organization of the neuromuscular system based on the constraints of anatomical structures, environmental factors, and movement tasks. Human gait requires the high level of neuromuscular control to regulate the initiation, intensity and adaptability of movements. To better understand how the neuromuscular system organizes and coordinates movements during walking, examination of single joint kinematics and kinetics alone may not be sufficient. Studying inter-joint coordination will provide insights into the essential timing and sequencing of neuromuscular control over biomechanical degrees of freedom, and the variability of inter-joint coordination would reflect the adaptability of such control. Previous studies assessing inter-joint coordination were mainly focused on neurological deficiencies, such as stroke or cerebral palsy. However, information on how inter-joint coordination is modulated with different constraints, such as walking speeds, aging, brain injury or joint dysfunctions, are limited. This knowledge could help us in identifying the potential risks during walking and improve the performance of individuals with movement impairments. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the properties of inter-joint coordination pattern and variability during walking with different levels of neuromuscular system perturbations using a DST approach, including an overall neuromuscular systemic degeneration, a direct insult to the brain, and a joint disease. We found that aging seemed to reduce the pattern adaptability of neuromuscular control. Isolated brain injury and joint disease altered the coordination pattern and exaggerated the variability, indicating a poor neuromuscular control. To improve gait performances for different populations, clinical rehabilitation should be carefully designed as different levels of neuromuscular system constraints would lead to different needs for facilitating appropriate coordinative movement. This dissertation includes both previously published/unpublished and coauthored material.
Date: 2012

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