Emergence of Different Gaits in Infancy: Relationship Between Developing Neural Circuitries and Changing Biomechanics

Arthur Henri Dewolf, Francesca Sylos-Labini, Germana Cappellini, Francesco Lacquaniti, Yury Ivanenko

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


How does gait-specific pattern generation evolve in early infancy? The idea that neural and biomechanical mechanisms underlying mature walking and running differ to some extent and involve distinct spinal and supraspinal neural circuits is supported by various studies. Here we consider the issue of human gaits from the developmental point of view, from neonate stepping to adult mature gaits. While differentiating features of the walk and run are clearly distinct in adults, the gradual and progressive developmental bifurcation between the different gaits suggests considerable sharing of circuitry. Gaits development and their biomechanical determinants also depend on maturation of the musculoskeletal system. This review outlines the possible overlap in the neural and biomechanical control of walking and running in infancy, supporting the idea that gaits may be built starting from common, likely phylogenetically conserved elements. Bridging connections between movement mechanics and neural control of locomotion could have profound clinical implications for technological solutions to understand better locomotor development and to diagnose early motor deficits. We also consider the neuromuscular maturation time frame of gaits resulting from active practice of locomotion, underlying plasticity of development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number473
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - May 19 2020


  • biomechanical gait determinants
  • early development
  • gait transitions
  • human bipedal locomotion
  • infants
  • neural control of different gaits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Histology
  • Biomedical Engineering


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