Studying spontaneous synchronization of stepping as two individuals walk on side-by-side treadmills may be useful for understanding the control of bipedal locomotion and may have implications for gait rehabilitation. Existing data suggest that this behavior is related to differences in leg length, walkway slope, and overground speed between partners, and might be promoted by altering these variables. This idea was evaluated here as 24 pairs of subjects stepped on side-by-side treadmills under several conditions of relative speed and slope. Overall, pairings that demonstrated very little spontaneous synchronization with the same treadmill speed and slope exhibited significant increases in this behavior when one treadmill was manipulated. Conversely, pairings that demonstrated a tendency to synchronize under normal conditions exhibited significant decreases in this behavior when either treadmill was altered.
Jeff A. Nessler, Gerald Kephart, Jason Cowell and Charles J. De Leone
Jeff A. Nessler, Tomas Gonzales, Eric Rhoden, Matthew Steinbrick and Charles J. De Leone
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of interpersonal synchronization of stepping on stride interval dynamics during over-ground walking. Twenty-seven footswitch instrumented subjects walked under three conditions: independent (SOLO), alongside a partner (PAIRED), and side by side with intentional synchronization (FORCED). A subset of subjects also synchronized stepping to a metronome (MET). Stride time power spectral density and detrended fluctuation analysis revealed that the rate of autocorrelation decay in stride time was similar for both the SOLO and PAIRED conditions, but was significantly reduced during the FORCED and MET conditions (p=0.03 & 0.002). Stride time variability was also significantly increased for the FORCED and MET conditions (p<0.001). These data suggest that forced synchronization of stepping results in altered stride interval dynamics, likely through increased active control by the CNS. Passive side by side stepping, where synchronization is subconscious, does not appreciably alter stepping in this manner.