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Background: Several investigations have suggested that changes in the nonlinear gait dynamics are related to the neural control of locomotion. However, no investigations have provided insight on how neural control of the locomotive pattern may be directly reflected in changes in the nonlinear gait dynamics. Our simulations with a passive dynamic walking model predicted that toe-off impulses that assist the forward motion of the center of mass influence the nonlinear gait dynamics. Here we tested this prediction in humans as they walked on the treadmill while the forward progression of the center of mass was assisted by a custom built mechanical horizontal actuator.

Methods: Nineteen participants walked for two minutes on a motorized treadmill as a horizontal actuator assisted the forward translation of the center of mass during the stance phase. All subjects walked at a self-select speed that had a medium-high velocity. The actuator provided assistive forces equal to 0, 3, 6 and 9 percent of the participant's body weight. The largest Lyapunov exponent, which measures the nonlinear structure, was calculated for the hip, knee and ankle joint time series. A repeated measures one-way analysis of variance with a t-test post hoc was used to determine significant differences in the nonlinear gait dynamics.

Results: The magnitude of the largest Lyapunov exponent systematically increased as the percent assistance provided by the mechanical actuator was increased.

Conclusion: These results support our model's prediction that control of the forward progression of the center of mass influences the nonlinear gait dynamics. The inability to control the forward progression of the center of mass during the stance phase may be the reason the nonlinear gait dynamics are altered in pathological populations. However, these conclusions need to be further explored at a range of walking speeds.


© 2007 Kurz and Stergiou; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Journal Title

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation





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Biomechanics Commons