Locomotor adaptation to a soleus EMG-controlled antagonistic exoskeleton

Keith E. Gordon, Catherine R. Kinnaird, Daniel P. Ferris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Locomotor adaptation in humans is not well understood. To provide insight into the neural reorganization that occurs following a significant disruption to one's learned neuromuscular map relating a given motor command to its resulting muscular action, we tied the mechanical action of a robotic exoskeleton to the electromyography (EMG) profile of the soleus muscle during walking. The powered exoskeleton produced an ankle dorsiflexion torque proportional to soleus muscle recruitment thus limiting the soleus' plantar flexion torque capability. We hypothesized that neurologically intact subjects would alter muscle activation patterns in response to the antagonistic exoskeleton by decreasing soleus recruitment. Subjects practiced walking with the exoskeleton for two 30-min sessions. The initial response to the perturbation was to "fight" the resistive exoskeleton by increasing soleus activation. By the end of training, subjects had significantly reduced soleus recruitment resulting in a gait pattern with almost no ankle push-off. In addition, there was a trend for subjects to reduce gastrocnemius recruitment in proportion to the soleus even though only the soleus EMG was used to control the exoskeleton. The results from this study demonstrate the ability of the nervous system to recalibrate locomotor output in response to substantial changes in the mechanical output of the soleus muscle and associated sensory feedback. This study provides further evidence that the human locomotor system of intact individuals is highly flexible and able to adapt to achieve effective locomotion in response to a broad range of neuromuscular perturbations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1804-1814
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Volume109
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Biomechanics
  • Exoskeleton
  • Gait
  • Motor adaptation
  • Motor learning
  • Orthosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology

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