Kinematics in newly walking toddlers does not depend upon postural stability

Yuri P. Ivanenko, Nadia Dominici, Germana Cappellini, Francesco Lacquaniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

When a toddler starts to walk without support, gait kinematics and electromyographic (EMG) activity differ from those of older children and the body displays considerable oscillations due to poor equilibrium. Postural instability clearly affects motor patterns in adults, but does instability explain why toddlers walk with a different gait? Here we addressed this question by comparing kinematics and EMGs in toddlers performing their first independent steps with or without hand or trunk support. Hand support significantly improved postural stability and some general gait parameters, reducing percent of falls, step width, lateral hip deviations and trunk oscillations. However, the kinematic and EMG patterns were unaffected by increased postural stability. In particular, the co-variance of the angular motion of the lower limb segments, the pattern of bilateral coordination of the vertical movement of the two hip joints, high variability of the foot path, the elliptic or single peak trajectory of the foot in the swing phase, and characteristic EMG bursts at foot contact remained idiosyncratic of toddler locomotion. Instead the toddler pattern shared fundamental features with adult stepping in place, suggesting that toddlers implement a mixed locomotor strategy, combining forward progression with elements of stepping in place. Furthermore, gait kinematics remained basically unchanged until the occurrence of the first unsupported steps and rapidly matured thereafter. We conclude that idiosyncratic features in newly walking toddlers do not simply result from undeveloped balance control but may represent an innate kinematic template of stepping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-763
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Volume94
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005

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Biomechanical Phenomena
Walking
Gait
Foot
Hand
Hip Joint
Locomotion
Hip
Lower Extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

Kinematics in newly walking toddlers does not depend upon postural stability. / Ivanenko, Yuri P.; Dominici, Nadia; Cappellini, Germana; Lacquaniti, Francesco.

In: Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 94, No. 1, 07.2005, p. 754-763.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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