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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurol. | doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00017

Probing corticospinal control during different locomotor tasks using detailed time-frequency analysis of electromyograms

 Linard Filli1*,  Christian Meyer2,  Tim Killeen2, Lilla Lörincz1, Beat Göpfert3, Michael Linnebank4,  Vinzenz Von Tscharner5,  Armin Curt2,  Marc Bolliger2 and Björn Zörner2
  • 1Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Balgrist University Hospital, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Biomedicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Basel, Switzerland
  • 4Department of Neurology, Helios Clinic Hagen-Ambrock, Germany
  • 5Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Canada

Locomotion relies on the fine-tuned coordination of different muscles which are controlled by particular neural circuits. Depending on the attendant conditions, walking patterns must be modified to optimally meet the demands of the task. Assessing neuromuscular control during dynamic conditions is methodologically highly challenging and prone to artifacts.

We investigated changes in neuromuscular control during various locomotor tasks. Activity in tibialis anterior (TA) and gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscles was monitored by surface electromyography (EMG) in 27 healthy volunteers (11 female) during regular walking, walking while engaged in simultaneous cognitive dual tasks, walking with partial visual restriction and skilled, targeted locomotion.

Whereas EMG intensity of the TA and GM was considerably altered while walking with partial visual restriction and during targeted locomotion, dual-task walking induced only minor changes in total EMG intensity compared to regular walking. Targeted walking resulted in enhanced EMG intensity of GM in the frequency range associated with Piper rhythm synchronies. Likewise, targeted walking induced enhanced EMG intensity of TA at the Piper rhythm frequency around heelstrike, but not during the swing phase.

Our findings indicate task- and phase-dependent modulations of neuromuscular control in distal leg muscles. Enhanced EMG intensity at the frequency of the Piper rhythm during targeted walking points towards enforced corticospinal drive during challenging locomotor tasks. These findings indicate that comprehensive time-frequency EMG analysis is able to gauge cortical involvement during different movement programs and might be used to monitor corticospinal integrity during neurorehabilitation interventions.

Keywords: neuromuscular control, Locomotion, Electromyography, Humans, corticospinal, Walking

Received: 11 Oct 2018; Accepted: 07 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Muthuraman Muthuraman, Division of Movement Disorders and Neurostimulation, Department of Neurology, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

Reviewed by:

Silmar Teixeira, Federal University of Piauí, Brazil
Gertrud Tamas, Semmelweis University, Hungary  

Copyright: © 2019 Filli, Meyer, Killeen, Lörincz, Göpfert, Linnebank, Von Tscharner, Curt, Bolliger and Zörner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Linard Filli, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland,