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Neural predictors of gait stability when walking freely in the real-world

Neural predictors of gait stability when walking freely in the real-world

Sara Pizzamiglio, Hassan Abdalla, Usman Naeem, Duncan L. Turner
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation


Gait impairments during real-world locomotion are common in neurological diseases. However, very little is currently known about the neural correlates of walking in the real world and on which regions of the brain are involved in regulating gait stability and performance. As a first step to understanding how neural control of gait may be impaired in neurological conditions such as Parkinson ’ s disease, we investigated how regional brain activation might predict walking performance in the urban environment and whilst engaging with secondary tasks in healthy subjects.


We recorded gait characteristics including trunk acceleration and brain activation in 14 healthy young subjects whilst they walked around the university campus fr eely (single task), while conver sing with the experimenter and while texting with their smartphone. Neur al spectral power density (PSD) was evalua ted in three brain regions of interest, namely the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) and bi lateral posterior parietal cortex (right /left PPC). We hypothesized that specific regional neural activation would predict trunk acceleration data obtained during the different walking conditions.


Vertical trunk acceleration was predicted by gait velocity and left PPC theta (4 – 7 Hz) band PSD in single-task walking (R-squared = 0.725, p = 0.001) and by gait velocity and left PPC alpha (8 – 12 Hz) band PSD in walking while conversing (R-squared = 0.727, p = 0.001). Medio-lateral trunk acceleration was predicted by left PPC beta (15 – 25 Hz) band PSD when walking while texting (R-squared = 0.434, p =0.010).


We suggest that the left PPC may be involved in the processes of sensorimotor integration and gait control during walking in real-world conditions. Frequency-specific coding was operative in different dual tasks and may be developed as biomarkers of gait deficits in neurological conditions during performance of these types of, now commonly undertaken, dual tasks.


Mobile brain/body imaging (MOBI), EEG, Gait, Acceleration, RMSR, Urban environment

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