Handrail Holding during Treadmill Walking Reduces Locomotor Learning in Able-Bodied Persons

Buurke, T. J. W., Lamoth, C., van der Woude, L. H. V. & den Otter, R., 14-Aug-2019, In : IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. 27, 9, p. 1753-1759 8 p.

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Treadmills used for gait training in clinical rehabilitation and experimental settings are commonly fitted with handrails to assist or support persons in locomotor tasks. However, the effects of balance support through handrail holding on locomotor learning are unknown. Locomotor learning can be studied on split-belt treadmills, where participants walk on two parallel belts with asymmetric left and right belt speeds, to which they adapt their stepping pattern within a few minutes. The aim of this study was to determine how handrail holding affects the walking pattern during split-belt adaptation and after-effects in able-bodied persons. Fifty healthy young participants in five experimental groups were instructed to hold handrails, swing arms freely throughout the experiment or hold handrails during adaptation and swing arms freely during after-effects. Step length asymmetry and double support asymmetry were measured to assess the spatiotemporal walking pattern. The results showed that holding handrails during split-belt adaptation reduces magnitude of initial perturbation of step length asymmetry and reduces after-effects in step length asymmetry upon return to symmetric belt speeds. The findings of this study imply that balance support during gait training reduces locomotor learning, which should be considered in daily clinical gait practice and future research on locomotor learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1753-1759
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 14-Aug-2019


  • Split-belt, Balance control, Stability, Motor learning, Rehabilitation, Gait

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