It has been hypothesized that the coordinated activation of muscles is controlled by the central nervous system by means of a small alphabet of control signals (also referred to as activation signals) and motor modules (synergies). We analyzed the locomotion of 10 patients recently affected by stroke (maximum of 20 wk) and compared it with that of healthy controls. The aim was to assess whether the walking of subacute stroke patients is based on the same motor modules and/or activation signals as healthy subjects. The activity of muscles of the lower and upper limb and the trunk was measured and used for extracting motor modules. Four modules were sufficient to explain the majority of variance in muscle activation in both controls and patients. Modules from the affected side of stroke patients were different from those of healthy controls and from the unaffected side of stroke patients. However, the activation signals were similar between groups and between the affected and unaffected side of stroke patients, and were characterized by impulses at specific time instants within the gait cycle, underlying an impulsive controller of gait. In conclusion, motor modules observed in healthy subjects during locomotion are different from those used by subacute stroke patients, despite similar impulsive activation signals. We suggest that this pattern is consistent with a neuronal network in which the timing of activity generated by central pattern generators is directed to the motoneurons via a premotor network that distributes the activity in a task-dependent manner determined by sensory and descending control information.
- Motor control
ASJC Scopus subject areas