Sensory-motor deficits associated with below-knee amputation impair reactions to external perturbations. As such, below-knee prosthesis users rely on proactive control strategies to maintain locomotor stability. However, there are trade-offs (metabolic, comfort, etc.) associated with proactive strategies. We hypothesize that because proactive control strategies are costly, prosthesis users and non-impaired participants will use a priori knowledge (timing, direction) of an impending lateral perturbation to make specific gait adaptations only when the timing of the perturbation is known and the adaptation can be temporally-limited. This hypothesis was partially supported. When the perturbation timing was predictable, only prosthesis users, and only on their impaired side, increased their lateral margin of stability during the steps immediately preceding the perturbation when perturbation direction was either unknown or known to be directed towards their impaired side. This strategy should reduce the likelihood of requiring a corrective step to maintain stability. However, neither group exhibited substantial proactive adaptations compared to baseline walking when perturbation timing was unpredictable, independent of perturbation direction knowledge. The absence of further proactive stabilization behaviors observed in prosthesis users in anticipation of a certain but temporally unpredictable perturbation may be partially responsible for impaired balance control.
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