Contribution of sensory feedback to plantar flexor muscle activation during push-off in adults with cerebral palsy

Rasmus Frisk, Peter Jensen, Henrik Kirk, Jakob Lorentzen, Jens Bo Nielsen

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Exaggerated sensory activity has been assumed to contribute to functional impairment following lesion of the central motor pathway. However, recent studies have suggested that sensory contribution to muscle activity during gait is reduced in stroke patients and children with cerebral palsy (CP). We investigated whether this also occurs in CP adults and whether daily treadmill training is accompanied by alterations in sensory contribution to muscle activity. Seventeen adults with CP and 12 uninjured individuals participated. The participants walked on a treadmill while a robotized ankle-foot orthosis applied unload perturbations at the ankle, thereby removing sensory feedback naturally activated during push-off. Reduction of electromyographic (EMG) activity in the soleus muscle caused by unloads was compared and related to kinematics and ankle joint stiffness measurements. Similar measures were obtained after 6 wk of gait training. We found that sensory contribution to soleus EMG activation was reduced in CP adults compared with uninjured adults. The lowest contribution of sensory feedback was found in participants with lowest maximal gait speed. This was related to increased ankle plantar flexor stiffness. Six weeks of gait training did not alter the contribution of sensory feedback. We conclude that exaggerated sensory activity is unlikely to contribute to impaired gait in CP adults, because sensory contribution to muscle activity during gait was reduced compared with in uninjured individuals. Increased passive stiffness around the ankle joint is likely to diminish sensory feedback during gait so that a larger part of plantar flexor muscle activity must be generated by descending motor commands.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Findings suggest that adults with cerebral palsy have less contribution of sensory feedback to ongoing soleus muscle activation during push-off than uninjured individuals. Increased passive stiffness around the ankle joint is likely to diminish sensory feedback during gait, and/or sensory feedback is less integrated with central motor commands in the activation of spinal motor neurons. Consequently, muscle activation must to a larger extent rely on descending drive, which is already decreased because of the cerebral lesion.
TidsskriftJournal of Neurophysiology
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)3165-3174
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2017