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Quantifying Human Gait Symmetry During Blindfolded Treadmill Walking

Otella Shoja, Masoumeh Shojaei, Hamidollah Hassanlouei, Farzad Towhidkhah, and Lei Zhang

Bilateral gait symmetry is an essential requirement for normal walking since asymmetric gait patterns increase the risk of falls and injuries. While human gait control heavily relies on the contribution of sensory inputs, the role of sensory systems in producing symmetric gait has remained unclear. This study evaluated the influence of vision as a dominant sensory system on symmetric gait production. Ten healthy adults performed treadmill walking with and without vision. Twenty-two gait parameters including ground reaction forces, joint range of motion, and other spatial–temporal gait variables were evaluated to quantify gait symmetry and compared between both visual conditions. Visual block caused increased asymmetry in most parameters of ground reaction force, however mainly in the vertical direction. When vision was blocked, symmetry of the ankle and knee joint range of motion decreased, but this change did not occur in the hip joint. Stance and swing time symmetry decreased during no-vision walking while no significant difference was found for step length symmetry between the two conditions. This study provides a comprehensive analysis to reveal how the visual system influences bilateral gait symmetry and highlights the important role of vision in gait control. This approach could be applied to investigate how vision alters gait symmetry in patients with disorders to help better understand the role of vision in pathological gaits.

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In Remembrance: The Life and Legacy of Michael T. Turvey (1942–2023)

Michael A. Riley and Dagmar Sternad

Michael T. Turvey passed away on August 12, 2023 at the age of 81. This obituary aims to honor his life and career by highlighting some key events in his personal and professional life, noting some of his many remarkable accomplishments, and emphasizing his exceptional mentorship, friendship, and generosity.

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The Role of Imitation, Primitives, and Spatial Referent Coordinates in Motor Control: Implications for Writing and Reading

Shelia Guberman and Mark L. Latash

We review a body of literature related to the drawing and recognition of geometrical two-dimensional linear drawings including letters. Handwritten letters are viewed not as two-dimensional geometrical objects but as one-dimensional trajectories of the tip of the implement. Handwritten letters are viewed as composed of a small set of kinematic primitives. Recognition of objects is mediated by processes of their creation (actual or imagined)—the imitation principle, a particular example of action–perception coupling. The concept of spatial directional field guiding the trajectories is introduced and linked to neuronal population vectors. Further, we link the kinematic description to the theory of control with spatial referent coordinates. This framework allows interpreting a number of experimental observations and clinical cases of agnosia. It also allows formulating predictions for new experimental studies of writing.

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Consistent Individual Tendencies in Motor Speed–Accuracy Trade-Off

Matheus M. Pacheco, Charley W. Lafe, Che-Hsiu Chen, and Tsung-Yu Hsieh

The literature on speed–accuracy trade-off (SAT) in motor control has evidenced individuality in how individuals trade moments (e.g., mean and variance) of spatial and temporal errors. These individual tendencies could grasp tendencies of the system given previous experiences and constraints of the organism, a signature of the system control. Nonetheless, such tendency must be robust to small perturbations. Thirty participants performed nine conditions with different time and spatial criteria over 2 days (scanning). In between these scanning conditions, individuals performed a practice condition that required modifications of the individuals’ preferred spatial and temporal tendency in the SAT. Our results demonstrated that there were no systematic effects of practice in SAT preferences. However, individual analyses demonstrated significant changes for 25 out of 30 individuals. The latter either attests against a consistent preference or to a more complex characterization of individual SAT tendencies.

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Short- and Long-Term Changes in Balance After Active Video Game Training in Children With and Without Developmental Coordination Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Tatiane Targino Gomes Draghi, Bouwien Smits-Engelsman, Daniela Godoi-Jacomassi, Jorge Lopes Cavalcante Neto, Dorothee Jelsma, and Eloisa Tudella

Active video games (AVG) have been used as training tools and are known to ameliorate balance performance in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Our aim was to evaluate balance using clinical tests and by measuring body sway using a force plate with a mixed design of vision (eyes open/eyes closed), surface (rigid/soft), and support (stance/semitandem) before, and after, training and 4 months later (follow-up). Thirty-six DCD children and 40 typically developing children participated in the study, of which 50 children (26 DCD; 24 typically developing) were retested after 4 months. Balance improved on the clinical measures after the training, which was independent of type of AVG (Wii-Fit and Xbox Kinect) used, and this effect was still present after 4 months. The AVG training did not influence general sway behavior, but only sway in the eyes-open condition, corresponding with task demands of the training and indicating a training-specific effect. Overall, DCD children and typically developing children responded comparably to the AVG training, thereby maintaining the gap in performance between the two groups. The changes in postural sway are interpreted as a sign of more confidence and less freezing of the joints, enabling greater flexibility of movements and balance strategies as supported by the improved performance on balance tests in the DCD children. This is the first study that showed long-term effects of AVG training on balance performance. However, these follow-up results should be interpreted with caution given that 35% of the children were lost in follow-up.

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The Effects of Various Cognitive Tasks Including Working Memory, Visuospatial, and Executive Function on Postural Control in Patients With Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

Fatemeh Emami, Hossein Negahban, Ehsan Sinaei, Neda Mostafaee, Behnaz Shahtahmassebi, Mohammad Hossein Ebrahimzadeh, and Mohammad Mehravar

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture can impair balance performance, particularly during cognitive motor dual-tasks. This study aimed to determine the effects of various modalities of cognitive load (working memory, and visuospatial and executive function) on postural control parameters in individuals with ACL injury. Twenty-seven ACL-injured and 27 healthy participants were evaluated doing different cognitive tasks (silent backward counting, Benton’s judgment of line orientation, and Stroop color-word test) while standing on a rigid surface or a foam. Each task was repeated three times and then averaged. Center of pressure variables used to measure postural performance included sway area and sway velocity in anterior–posterior and medial–lateral directions. Cognitive performance was also assessed by calculating errors and the score of cognitive tasks. A mixed model analysis of variance for center of pressure parameters indicated that patients had more sways than the healthy group. The interaction of group by postural difficulty by cognitive tasks was statistically significant for cognitive errors (p < .01), and patients with ACL injury indicated more cognitive errors compared to healthy controls while standing on the foam. The main effect of cognitive task was statistically significant for all postural parameters, representing reduced postural sways in both groups with all cognitive tasks. However, ACL-injured patients showed more cognitive errors in difficult postural conditions, suggesting that individuals with ACL injury may prioritize postural control over cognitive task accuracy and adopt the posture-first strategy to maintain balance under dual-task conditions.

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Effects of Static Hamstring Stretching on Maximal Sprint Speed and Relationship With Nordic Hamstring Strength

Yusuke Ozaki and Takeshi Ueda

This study aimed to determine the acute effects of static stretching of the hamstrings on maximal sprint speed and its spatiotemporal variables and lower-limb kinematics during the late swing phase, as well as the relationship with Nordic hamstring strength. The study had a within-participant experimental design. Sixteen healthy male college sprinters were asked to sprint 80 m without static stretching and with static stretching of the hamstrings for 4 × 30 s per leg before the sprint; both conditions were counterbalanced. The knee flexion peak torque was measured using the Nordic hamstring. The differences between no static stretching and static stretching as well as their relationship with Nordic hamstring strength were investigated. The results showed that the touchdown distance (p = .036) significantly increased following static stretching. Although not significant, maximal sprint speed decreased (p = .086), and the theoretical hamstring length (difference between knee angle and hip angle) at ipsilateral touchdown was greater (p = .069) following static stretching. In addition, a lower peak torque of the Nordic hamstring resulted in a more significant decrease in maximal sprint speed following static stretching. Therefore, static stretching of the hamstring just before sprinting may increase the theoretical hamstring length during the late swing phase at maximal sprint speed and induce kinematics that increases the hamstring strain injury risk. Moreover, it is suggested that improving the Nordic hamstring strength may help minimize the negative effects of static stretching on the hamstrings.

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Age-Related Constraints in the Visuomotor Plasticity of Postural Control as Revealed by a Whole-Body Mirror Learning Task

Iasonas Christodoulou, Vasileios Mylonas, Theodoros M. Kannas, Charalampos Sotirakis, Lida Mademli, Evangelia Kouidi, and Vassilia Hatzitaki

Whether visuomotor plasticity of postural control is a trainable feature in older age remains an open question despite the wealth of visually guided exercise games promising to improve balance skill. We asked how aging affects adaptation and learning of a visual feedback (VF) reversal during visually guided weight shifting and whether this skill is modulated by explicit knowledge. Twenty-four older (71.43 ± 2.54 years) and 24 young (24.04 ± 0.93 years) participants were exposed to a 180° VF reversal while tracking a horizontally moving target by voluntarily weight shifting between two force platforms. An explicit strategy was available to half of the participants with detailed instruction to counter the VF rotation. Individual error data were fitted to an exponential function to assess adaptation. Fewer older (12/24) than younger (21/24) participants adapted to the VF reversal, displaying error curves that fitted the exponential function. Older adults who adapted to the VF reversal (responders, n = 12) reached an asymptote in performance in the same weight shifting cycle and displayed a similar mean asymptotic error compared with young participants. Young but not older responders exhibited an aftereffect when the VF reversal was removed. Instruction did not influence spatial error modulations regardless of age. The large individual variations within the older adults’ group during early adaptation suggest age-specific limitations in using explicit cognitive strategies when older adults are exposed to an abrupt mirror feedback reversal that requires a change in weight shifting direction during whole-body postural tracking.

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Volume 28 (2024): Issue 1 (Jan 2024)

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High-Intensity Forward-Backward Plyometrics After the Warm-Up Entail Better Sprint and Change-of-Direction Performance Than Low-Intensity Side-to-Side Plyometrics

Karim Ben Ayed, Raouf Hammami, Javier Gene-Morales, Amira Ajailia, Hanen Werfelli, Haithem Rebai, Pablo Jiménez-Martínez, Jorge Flandez, and Juan C. Colado

This study aimed to determine the acute effects of high-intensity forward-backward and low-intensity side-to-side plyometric jumps performed following the warm-up on sprint (5, 10, and 15 m) and change-of-direction (COD) (T-half test and repeated T-half tests) performance in youth volleyball players. After a familiarization week, 30 male volleyball players (age = 12.04 ± 1.03 years) performed three randomized conditions (no-plyometrics, high-intensity plyometrics, and low-intensity plyometrics) in three sessions. In a within-subject design, three sets of six repetitions of forward-backward 30-cm hurdle jumps (high-intensity) and side-to-side 20-cm hurdle jumps (low-intensity) were completed. Sprint and COD were tested after each of the conditions with a 2-min rest. A significant effect of the plyometric condition was observed on sprint (p < .001, η p 2 range: .56–.70) and COD (p < .01, η p 2 = .24 ), but not on repeated COD. More specifically, the high-intensity plyometric condition exhibited significantly better results compared with the low-intensity plyometric (Cohen’s d range: 0.73–1.21) and control conditions (Cohen’s d range: 0.91–2.21). Due to the importance of speed and COD in volleyball, these results suggest that young volleyball players may benefit from high-intensity forward-backward plyometric protocols following the warm-up to improve subsequent performance.