Arm sway holds sway: locomotor-like modulation of leg reflexes when arms swing in alternation
SourceNeuroscience, 258, (2014), pp. 34-46
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectRadboudumc 3: Disorders of movement DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
It has been argued that arm movements are important during human gait because they affect leg activity due to neural coupling between arms and legs. Consequently, one would expect that locomotor-like alternating arm swing is more effective than in-phase swing in affecting the legs' motor output. Other alternating movements such as trunk rotation associated to arm swing could also affect leg reflexes. Here, we assessed how locomotor-like movement patterns would affect soleus H-reflexes in 13 subjects performing arm swing in the sagittal plane (ipsilateral, contralateral and bilateral in-phase versus locomotor-like anti-phase arm movements) and trunk rotation with the legs stationary, and leg stepping with the arms stationary. Findings revealed that soleus H-reflexes were suppressed for all arm, trunk or leg movements. However, a marked reflex modulation occurred during locomotor-like anti-phase arm swing, as was also the case during leg stepping, and this modulation flattened out during in-phase arm swing. This modulation had a peculiar bell shape and showed maximum suppression at a moment where the heel-strike would occur during a normal walking cycle. Furthermore, this modulation was independent from electromyographic activity, suggesting a spinal processing at premotoneuronal level. Therefore, trunk movement can affect legs' output, and a special neural coupling occurs between arms and legs when arms move in alternation. This may have implications for gait rehabilitation.
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