The neuro-mechanical processes that underlie goal-directed medio-lateral APA during gait initiation

Jean Louis Honeine, Marco Schieppati, Oscar Crisafulli, Manh Cuong Do

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gait initiation (GI) involves passing from bipedal to unipedal stance. It requires a rapid movement of the center of foot pressure (CoP) towards the future swing foot and of the center of mass (CoM) in the direction of the stance foot prior to the incoming step. This anticipatory postural adjustment (APA) allows disengaging the swing leg from the ground and establishing favorable conditions for stepping. This study aimed to describe the neuro-mechanical process that underlies the goal-directed medio-lateral (ML) APA. We hypothesized that controlled knee flexion of the stance leg contributes to the initial ML displacement of the CoP and to the calibration of the first step. Fourteen subjects initiated gait starting from three different initial stance widths of 15 cm (Small), 30 cm (Medium), and 45 cm (Large). Optoelectronic, force platform and electromyogram (EMG) measurements were performed. During APA, soleus activity diminished bilaterally, while tibialis anterior (TA) activity increased, more so in the stance leg than in the swing leg, and to a larger extent with increasing initial stance width. Knee flexion of the stance leg was observed during APA and correlated with the ML CoP displacement towards the swing leg. ML CoP and CoM displacements during APA increased with increasing stance width. The activity of stance-leg TA was correlated with the degree of knee flexion. Swing-leg tensor fasciae latae (TFL) was also active during APA. Across subjects, when stance-leg tibialis activity was low, TFL activity was large and vice versa. The modulation of the ML CoP position during APA allowed the gravity-driven torque to place the CoM just lateral to the stance foot during step execution. Accordingly, the gravity-driven torque, the ML CoM velocity during step execution, and the step width at foot contact (FC) were lower in the Small and greater in the Large condition. Consequently, the position of the stepping foot at FC remained close to the sagittal plane in all three conditions. Conclusively, coordinated activation of hip abductors and ankle dorsiflexors during APA displaces the CoP towards the swing leg, and sets the contact position for the swing foot.

Original languageEnglish
Article number445
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberAUG2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 31 2016


  • Ankle dorsiflexor muscles
  • Center of mass
  • Center of pressure
  • Frontal plane
  • Gait initiation
  • Hip abductor muscles
  • Knee flexion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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