Background: The effects of a stroke, such as hemiparesis, can severely hamper the ability to walk and to maintain balance during gait. Providing support to stroke survivors through a robotic exoskeleton, either to provide training or daily-life support, requires an understanding of the balance impairments that result from a stroke. Here, we investigate the differences between the paretic and non-paretic leg in making recovery steps to restore balance following a disturbance during walking.
Methods: We perturbed 10 chronic-stage stroke survivors during walking using mediolateral perturbations of various amplitudes. Kinematic data as well as gluteus medius muscle activity levels during the first recovery step were recorded and analyzed.
Results: The results show that this group of subjects is able to modulate foot placement in response to the perturbations regardless of the leg being paretic or not. Modulation in gluteus medius activity with the various perturbations is in line with this observation. In general, the foot of the paretic leg was laterally placed further away from the center of mass than that of the non-paretic leg, while subjects spent more time standing on the non-paretic leg.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that, though stroke-related gait characteristics are present, the modulation with the various perturbations remains unaffected. This might be because all subjects were only mildly impaired, or because these stepping responses partly occur through involuntary pathways which remain unaffected by the complications after the stroke.
- Balance during gait
- Muscle activity changes
- Perturbed walking
- Reactive foot placement