Navigation Links
Video: New Research Discovers Independent Brain Networks Control Human Walking
Date:8/19/2007

Kennedy Krieger Institute Study Enhances Understanding of Brain Plasticity

and Motor Skills, Signaling Advancements for Future Rehab Practices

BALTIMORE, Aug. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a study published in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland found that there are separate adaptable networks controlling each leg and there are also separate networks controlling leg movements, e.g., forward or backward walking. These findings are contrary to the currently accepted theory that leg movements and adaptations are directed by a single control circuit in the brain. The ability to train the right and left legs independently opens the door to new therapeutic approaches for correcting walking abilities in patients with brain injury (e.g., stroke) and neurological disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis).

To view the Multimedia News Release, go to: http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/bastian/29010/

Using a split-belt treadmill to separately control the legs, Kennedy Krieger researchers Dr. Amy Bastian and Julia Choi studied forty healthy adults and tracked each person's ability to learn various walking exercises. Utilizing specialized computer software and infrared tracking devices placed on key joints, researchers found subjects could store different walking patterns for forward versus backward walking simultaneously, with no interference between the two, revealing that separate brain systems control the two directions of walking. Surprisingly, people could also walk easily with one leg moving forward and the other backward, a pattern referred to as "hybrid walking." Adaptation of hybrid walking, in which varying speeds were applied to legs walking in opposite directions, was found to interfere with subsequent "normal" forward and backward walking. The combined results demonstrate there are distinct brain modules responsible for right/forward, right/backward, left/forward and left/backward walking. Most significantly, these modules can be individually trained, which would be critical for rehabilitation focused on correcting walking asymmetries produced by brain damage.

"The notion that we can leverage the brain's adaptive capacity and effectively 'dial in' the patterns of movement that we want patients to learn is incredibly exciting," said Dr. Amy Bastian, senior study author and Director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "These findings significantly enhance our understanding of motor skills, effective therapeutic approaches and the true adaptive nature of the brain."

The walking adaptations studied here represent a form of short term learning from practicing on this unusual treadmill. Investigators set different speeds for each belt of the treadmill causing subjects to walk in an abnormal limping pattern. However, within 15 minutes subjects adapted and learned to walk smoothly with a normal pattern and rhythm, as verified by computer models. This indicates that the phenomenon of brain plasticity can occur in short intervals. When subjects returned to normal conditions (same speed for the two legs), this adaptation caused an after-effect that resulted in a limp that lasted for five-to-ten minutes as they "unlearned" the correction. Regardless of how hard subjects tried, they were unable to stop this after-effect, because walking patterns are controlled by automatic brain systems that recalibrate themselves according to current conditions.

"As we understand more about the way the brain learns, relearns and adapts in relation to motor skills, physical therapy professionals have a vastly expanding toolbox from which to tailor therapeutic interventions," explains Gary Goldstein, MD, President and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "This study and other research from Kennedy Krieger's Motion Analysis Laboratory provide a glimpse into the rehabilitative potential made possible through the pairing of our talented researchers and cutting-edge technologies."

Past studies by Bastian and her colleagues have found that certain types of brain damage interfere with walking ability, while others do not. For example, individuals with damage to the cerebral hemispheres can adapt while those with damage to the cerebellum are rarely able to.

This body of work sheds light on the specificity of walking adaptations and demonstrates that patients with certain types of brain damage can store a new walking pattern in the short term. Based on these findings, Bastian's goal is to learn how to make that pattern last for an extended period. Currently, Bastian is planning a study of stroke victims in order to test the long-term benefits of split-belt treadmill therapy. She is also studying children with more extreme forms of brain damage, including those that undergo a hemispherectomy, a neurosurgical procedure to treat seizures in which an entire half of the brain is removed. The initial findings are quite promising, showing that these children can adapt in the short term and improve their walking patterns. These and other similar studies are leading researchers down the path to more targeted, rational therapies for patients with brain injuries.

About the Kennedy Krieger Institute

Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD serves more than 13,000 individuals each year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop while pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis. For more information on Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit http://www.kennedykrieger.org.


'/>"/>
SOURCE Kennedy Krieger Institute

Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.

Related medicine technology :

1. NIEHS Researchers Identify Enzyme Critical in DNA Replication
2. Stanford Researchers Find Brain Pathway of Depression in Rats
3. Suven Life Sciences Presenting Pre-clinical data of their NCE’s SUVN-502 and SUVN-507at International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) 2007 World Congress of Neuroscience
4. From Clinical Cancer Research: Rethinking Therapeutic Cancer Vaccine Trials
5. Researchers Discover Method for Identifying How Cancer Evades the Immune System
6. Infertile Voice Supports Stem Cell Research: RESOLVE Calls for Patient Options in Using Frozen Embryos
7. Fact Sheet: Advancing Stem Cell Research While Respecting Moral Boundaries
8. President Bush Ignores Americas Plea for Support of Stem Cell Research
9. Researchers Discover Gene For Rare Skin Disorder
10. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Expresses Disappointment Over President Bushs Veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act
11. Apollos human proteins boost stem cell research
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/23/2016)... VIEW, Calif. , June 23, 2016 ... a.m. CST on Thursday, July 7, 2016 , , , ... kayla.belcher@frost.com ) , , , , EXPERT PANELISTS:  , ... Nitin Naik; Senior Industry Analyst, Christi Bird; Senior Industry Analyst, Divyaa ... The global pharmaceutical industry is witnessing an ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016  Guerbet announced today that it ... Supplier Horizon Award . One of 12 ... recognized for its support of Premier members through exceptional ... excellence, and commitment to lower costs. ... recognition of our outstanding customer service from Premier," says ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... YORK , June 23, 2016 ... waters, but it continues to present great opportunities to ... companies for today: Intrexon Corp. (NYSE: XON ... Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARNA ), and ... more about these stocks and receive your complimentary trade ...
Breaking Medicine Technology:
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... crisis. Her son James, eight, was out of control. Prone to extreme mood shifts and ... him, he couldn’t control his emotions,” remembers Marcy. “If there was a knife on ... say he was going to kill them. If we were driving on the freeway, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, P.A. announced that 20 Florida attorneys are recognized ... this recognition are considered among the top 2 percent of lawyers practicing within the ... this year’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame: Miami Shareholders Mark D. Bloom, Burt ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... Comfort Keepers® of San Diego, CA is excited to announce they are ... drive cancer patients to and from their cancer treatments. Comfort Keepers provides quality ... and ongoing independence. Getting to and from medical treatments is one of the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... People across the U.S. are sharpening their pencils ... an essay contest in which patients and their families pay tribute to a genetic ... 2016 National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Annual Education Conference (AEC) this September. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... The Haute Beauty Network, affiliated ... Weintraub as a prominent plastic surgeon and the network’s newest partner. , ... most handsome men, look naturally attractive. Plastic surgery should be invisible.” He stands ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):