Impairment of Global Lower Limb Muscle Coactivation During Walking in Cerebellar Ataxias

Lorenzo Fiori, Alberto Ranavolo, Tiwana Varrecchia, Antonella Tatarelli, Carmela Conte, Francesco Draicchio, Stefano Filippo Castiglia, Gianluca Coppola, Carlo Casali, Francesco Pierelli, Mariano Serrao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to investigate the time-varying multi-muscle coactivation function (TMCf) in the lower limbs during gait and its relationship with the biomechanical and clinical features of patients with cerebellar ataxia. A total of 23 patients with degenerative cerebellar ataxia (16 with spinocerebellar ataxia, 7 with adult-onset ataxia of unknown etiology) and 23 age-, sex-, and speed-matched controls were investigated. The disease severity was assessed using the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) in all patients. During walking, simultaneous acquisition of kinematic, kinetic, and electromyography data was performed using a motion analysis system. The coactivation was processed throughout the gait cycle using the TMCf, and the following parameters were measured: synthetic coactivation index, full width at half maximum, and center of activity. Spatiotemporal (walking speed, stance duration, swing duration, first and second double-support durations, step length, step width, stride length, Center of Mass displacement), kinetic (vertical component of GRFs), and energy consumption (total energy consumption and mechanical energy recovered) parameters were also measured. The coactivation variables were compared between patients and controls and were correlated with both clinical and gait variables. A significantly increased global TMCf was found in patients compared with controls. In addition, the patients showed a significant shift of the center of activity toward the initial contact and a significant reduction in energy recovery. All coactivation parameters were negatively correlated with gait speed, whereas the coactivation index and center of activity were positively correlated with both center-of-mass mediolateral displacement values and SARA scores. Our findings suggest that patients use global coactivation as a compensatory mechanism during the earliest and most challenging subphase (loading response) of the gait cycle to reduce the lateral body sway, thus improving gait stability at the expense of effective energy recovery. This information could be helpful in optimizing rehabilitative treatment aimed at improving lower limb muscle control during gait in patients with cerebella ataxia.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 1 2020


  • Ataxia
  • Gait analysis
  • Muscle coactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Impairment of Global Lower Limb Muscle Coactivation During Walking in Cerebellar Ataxias'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this