In our experiments, we test subjects during simple over-ground walking on an even surface when locomotion can proceed successfully even in the dark or with closed eyes, and we test them during walking along a horizontal ladder where vision is required for accurate foot placement on the cross-pieces. We record kinematics and dynamic parameters of limb, head, and body movements, the activity of limb muscles, and the neuronal activity of the motor thalamus and motor and parietal cortices. We then compare body mechanics, the activity of muscles, and the activity of brain areas in these two tasks to discover the parameters that are associated specifically with stepping under visual control.
In the analysis of biomechanics of complex locomotion behaviors we collaborate with the laboratory of Dr. Prilutsky at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Together we conduct experiments in Phoenix during which we record the whole-body kinematics and dynamics of subjects while they walk along a cluttered pathway, along series of elevated platforms, or along a narrow strip. We also record the activity of the motor region of the cerebral cortex the same time. Some of these measurements are then repeated in Atlanta where more advanced equipment for tracking biomechanics is available.
Brad Farrell, an undergraduate student from the Georgia Institute of Technology, actively participated in these studies for about one and a half years. This fall Brad began graduate studies in the PhD program in Applied Physiology at Georgia Institute of Technology. Brad's research focuses on the mechanisms for precise stepping.
Our studies of the forebrain control of locomotion are leading to a better understanding of neuronal mechanisms of the forebrain for control of visually guided locomotion. The results may have significant clinical applications. In forebrain stroke patients, the choice of rehabilitation strategies for locomotion deficits depends largely on understanding the role of direct forebrain control of locomotion in relation to spinal mechanisms.
Explore literature on control of locomotion at PubMed.