Harvard Univ, John A Paulson Sch Engn & Appl Sci, Cambridge, MA 02138 - USA
 Harvard Univ, Wyss Inst Biologically Inspired Engn, Cambridge, MA 02138 - USA
 Univ Sao Paulo, Ribeirao Preto Med Sch, Dept Biomech Med & Locomotor Apparat Rehabilitat, BR-14040900 Ribeirao Preto, SP - Brazil
Total Affiliations: 3
Journal of Experimental Biology;
NOV 15 2017.
Web of Science Citations:
Although it is clear that walking over different irregular terrain is associated with altered biomechanics, there is little understanding of how we quickly adapt to unexpected variations in terrain. This study aims to investigate which adaptive strategies humans adopt when performing an unanticipated step on an irregular surface, specifically a small bump. Nine healthy male participants walked at their preferred walking speed along a straight walkway during five conditions: four involving unanticipated bumps of two different heights, and one level walking condition. Muscle activation of eight lower limb muscles and three-dimensional gait analysis were evaluated during these testing conditions. Two distinct adaptive strategies were found, which involved no significant change in total lower limb mechanical work or walking speed. An ankle-based strategy was adopted when stepping on a bump with the forefoot, whereas a hip-based strategy was preferred when stepping with the rearfoot. These strategies were driven by a higher activation of the plantarflexor muscles (6-51%), which generated a higher ankle joint moment during the forefoot conditions and by a higher activation of the quadriceps muscles (36-93%), which produced a higher knee joint moment and hip joint power during the rearfoot conditions. These findings provide insights into how humans quickly react to unexpected events and could be used to inform the design of adaptive controllers for wearable robots intended for use in unstructured environments that can provide optimal assistance to the different lower limb joints. (AU)