Single joint perturbation during gait: Preserved compensatory response pattern in spinal cord injured subjects

Edelle C. Field-Fote, Volker Dietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: Responses to afferent input during locomotion are organized at the spinal level but modulated by supraspinal centers. The study aim was to examine whether supraspinal influences affect the behavior of complex electromyographic (EMG) responses to single limb perturbations during walking. Methods: Subjects with motor-complete (MCSCI), motor-incomplete spinal cord injury (MISCI), and non-disabled (ND) subjects participated. Hip or knee joint trajectory was briefly arrested by a robotic device at early or late swing phase. EMG responses from muscles of both legs were analyzed. Results: Perturbation-induced EMG responses of spinal cord injured and ND individuals were similar in basic structure, with the exception that tibialis anterior onset times were delayed for SCI subjects. Across all groups, perturbations in late swing (i.e., near the swing-to-stance transition) were associated with shorter muscle onset times and higher EMG amplitudes. Knee perturbations were associated with shorter muscle response onset times, while hip perturbations elicited higher response amplitudes. EMG responses were also evoked in muscles contralateral to the perturbation. Conclusions: These data indicate that neuronal circuits within the spinal cord deprived of normal supraspinal input respond to swing phase perturbations in a manner that is similar to that of the intact spinal cord. Significance: The adult human spinal cord is capable of generating complex, phase-appropriate responses much as has been observed in studies of human infants and in spinal animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1607-1616
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Afferent input
  • Modulation
  • Spinal reflex
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)


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