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Walking adaptation, training and assessment in young children and individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Musselman, Kristin Elizabeth
Supervisor and department
Yang, Jaynie (Physical Therapy)
Examining committee member and department
Fetters, Linda (Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California)
Prochazka, Arthur (Physiology)
Ashworth, Nigel (Medicine)
Gorassini, Monica (Biomedical Engineering)
Jones, Kelvin (Physical Education and Recreation)
Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This thesis includes four projects that examine motor learning and assess novel approaches for the training and evaluation of walking. In Project 1 we study motor adaptation in children aged 8-36 months using a split-belt treadmill. Split-belt walking, in which one leg moves faster than the other, causes asymmetries in interlimb coordination. Adaptation is manifest as decreases in the asymmetries with practice, and an aftereffect (i.e., asymmetry in the opposite direction) upon the return to normal treadmill walking. Most children showed adaptation in double support time (temporal measure of interlimb coordination), but fewer showed adaptation in the spatial measures of step length and centre of oscillation. Hence, the mechanisms controlling adaptation of temporal coordination may mature before those controlling spatial coordination. In Project 2 we studied interlimb coordination and long-term training in infants aged 3-10 months. We found that most infants expressed the same type of coordination (i.e., alternate or synchronous) when kicking, a non-weight bearing movement, and when weight bearing on the treadmill. We also showed that daily practice of the non-preferred coordination in weight bearing for 1 month changed the preferred coordination for non-weight bearing movements. These findings suggest there is partial sharing of neural substrates for interlimb coordination of different leg movements in infants. In Project 3 we compared 2 methods of walking training – body weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT) and an over-ground method involving challenging practice of relevant walking skills (called skill training). Four individuals with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury (ISCI) completed 3 months of BWSTT followed by 3 months of skill training, or vice versa. We found skill training to be as effective as BWSTT at improving walking skill, speed, endurance and confidence. In Project 4 we developed a new measure of walking for ISCI, called the Spinal Cord Injury Functional Ambulation Profile (SCI-FAP). It involves the timed performance of 7 common walking tasks. The SCI-FAP has high inter-rater and test-retest reliability, and discriminative and convergent validity. Collectively the findings of this thesis will contribute to the optimization of walking training programs for adults and children with damage to the central nervous system.
License granted by Kristin Musselman ( on 2010-09-24T03:35:18Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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