Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Biomechanics Research Building
Dr. Mukul Mukherjee
It is well established that the soles of the feet are involved and aid in balance control. However, it is not well understood the exact role that the feet play in gait control. During walking, the center of pressure (CoP) takes a predictable and repeated path along the plantar surfaces, going from heel to toe. This CoP has been established to be vital for postural control during standing, the plantar surfaces may perform a similar role during walking by perceiving this CoP path. Most studies use vibro-tactile stimulation on the plantar surfaces during the entire gait cycle, including the swing phase. However, no studies have investigated the effects of different patterns of sequential stimulation on the plantar surfaces during the stance phase of gait. Therefore, the following chapters describe a method of testing this effect, and demonstrating how such patterned plantar stimulation alters gait in healthy young adults. This method of testing was developed such that plantar stimulation would activate specifically during the stance phase of the gait cycle, and activate in a gait-like or an abnormal sequence. We then hypothesized that stimulation in an abnormal sequence would result in gait and balance deficits when compared to stimulation that followed the natural sequence during walking. Additionally, that walking on an inclined surface would increase the effects of the tactile stimulation sequences on such measures when compared with no stimulation. We tested a total of nine healthy adults and found very minimal effects from the stimulation in any pattern. This demonstrates that healthy adults have the ability to adjust and reweigh sensory information from the plantar surfaces such that gait and balance outcomes show minimal or no deficits when foot-sole tactile sensory sequences are manipulated during slow walking. Additionally, that the perception of the CoP movement may be predominately supplied by slow adapting fibers that are not typically sensitive to vibrations. This work gives indication to the flexibility and adaptability of a healthy motor control system and demonstrates a method of testing such a system with an online stimulation control software.
Engsberg, Christopher P., "Patterned Plantar Stimulation During Gait" (2023). Theses, Dissertations, and Student Creative Activity. 2.