Influence of leg muscle vibration on human walking

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We studied the effect of vibratory stimulation of different leg muscles [bilateral quadriceps (Q), hamstring (HS) muscles, triceps surae (TS), and tibialis anterior (TA)] in seven normal subjects during 1) quiet standing, 2) stepping in place movements, and 3) walking on the treadmill. The experiments were performed in a dimly illuminated room, and the subjects were given the instruction not to resist the applied perturbation. In one condition the velocity of the treadmill was controlled by a feedback from the subject's current position. In normal standing, TA vibration elicited a prominent forward body tilt, whereas HS and TS vibration elicited backward trunk or whole body inclination, respectively. Q vibration had little effect. During stepping in place, continuous HS vibration produced an involuntary forward stepping at about 0.3 m s-1 without modifying the stepping frequency. When the subjects (with eyes closed) kept a hand contact with an external still object, they did not move forward but perceived an illusory forward leg flexion relative to the trunk. Q, TS, and TA vibration did not cause any systematic body translation nor illusory changes in body configuration. In treadmill locomotion, HS vibration produced an involuntary steplike increase of walking speed (by 0.1-0.6 m·s-1). Continuous vibration elicited larger speed increments than phasic stimulation during swing or stance phase. For phasic stimulation, HS vibration tended to be more effective when applied during swing than during stance phase. Q, TA, and TS vibration had little if any effect. Vibration of thigh muscles altered the walking speed depending on the direction of progression. During backward locomotion, the walking speed tended to decrease after HS vibration, whereas it significantly increased after Q vibration. Thus the influence of leg muscle vibration on stepping in place and locomotion differed significantly from that on normal posture. We suggest that the proprioceptive input from thigh muscles may convey information about the velocity of the foot movement relative to the trunk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1737-1747
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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