Control of leg movements driven by EMG activity of shoulder muscles

Valentina La Scaleia, Francesca Sylos-Labini, Thomas Hoellinger, Letian Wang, Guy Cheron, Francesco Lacquaniti, Yuri P. Ivanenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During human walking, there exists a functional neural coupling between arms and legs, and between cervical and lumbosacral pattern generators. Here, we present a novel approach for associating the electromyographic (EMG) activity from upper limb muscles with leg kinematics. Our methodology takes advantage of the high involvement of shoulder muscles in most locomotor-related movements and of the natural co-ordination between arms and legs. Nine healthy subjects were asked to walk at different constant and variable speeds (3–5 km/h), while EMG activity of shoulder (deltoid) muscles and the kinematics of walking were recorded. To ensure a high level of EMG activity in deltoid, the subjects performed slightly larger arm swinging than they usually do. The temporal structure of the burst-like EMG activity was used to predict the spatiotemporal kinematic pattern of the forthcoming step. A comparison of actual and predicted stride leg kinematics showed a high degree of correspondence (r >0.9). This algorithm has been also implemented in pilot experiments for controlling avatar walking in a virtual reality setup and an exoskeleton during over-ground stepping. The proposed approach may have important implications for the design of human–machine interfaces and neuroprosthetic technologies such as those of assistive lower limb exoskeletons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number838
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - Oct 20 2014


  • Arm–leg co-ordination
  • EMG patterns
  • Gait kinematics
  • Neuroprosthetic technology
  • Quadrupedal locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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