The purpose of this study was to determine whether the muscle vibration applied to the quadriceps has potential for augmenting muscle activity during gait in spinal cord injured (SCI) individuals. The effects of muscle vibration on muscle activity during robotic-assisted walking were measured in 11 subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI) that could tolerate weight-supported walking, along with five neurologically intact individuals. Electromyographic (EMG) recordings were made from the tibialis anterior (TA), medial gastrocnemius (MG), rectus femoris (RF), vastus lateralis (VL), and medial hamstrings (MH) during gait. Vibration was applied to the anterior mid-thigh using a custom vibrator oscillating at 80 Hz. Five vibratory conditions were tested per session including vibration applied during: (1) swing phase, (2) stance phase, (3) stance-swing transitions, (4) swing-stance transitions, and (5) throughout the entire gait cycle. During all vibration conditions, a significant increase in EMG activity was observed across both SCI and control groups in the RF, VL, and MH of the ipsilateral leg. In the SCI subjects, the VL demonstrated a shift toward more appropriate muscle timing when vibration was applied during stance phase and transition to stance of the gait cycle. These observations suggest that the sensory feedback from quadriceps vibration caused increased muscle excitation that resulted in phase-dependent changes in the timing of muscle activation during gait.
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