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

istinct 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 L
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SOURCE Kennedy Krieger Institute

Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.

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