‘Silly Walk’ studies (#2)

The Movement Lab at Ohio State University, US, is not the only academic institution to have experimentally evaluated ‘Silly Walks’ (see Part 1 of this series). On the other side of the Atlantic at the Department of Motion Science, University of Muenster, Germany, researchers Sook-Yee Chong, Heiko Wagner and Arne Wul have also performed a study.

sILLY_wALK“Seven healthy subjects were requested to perform silly walks, normal walking at self-selected speed (4.8 ± 0.5 km/h), 3.5 km/h, 4.0 km/h and 4.5 km/h on a treadmill.”

The team were interested in evaluating the role of Spinal Pattern Generators (SPGs) in normal and silly walk performance.

“We proposed that SPG in the spinal cord can interpret and respond accordingly to velocity-dependent afferent information. Changes in walking speed do not require a different motor control mechanism provided equilibrium is not affected and there is no disruption of the continuous rhythmic patterns produced at the ankle.”

The study ‘Application of neural oscillators to study the effects of walking speed on rhythmic activations at the ankle’ is published in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, 2013, 10:9

A computer graphic representation of one of the silly walks is also provided : ‘One subject performing a silly walk’ (16.7MB in .avi format – which for convenience Improbable has transcoded into the smaller image above)

The team conclude that :

“We proposed that SPG in the spinal cord can interpret and respond accordingly to velocity-dependent afferent information. Changes in walking speed do not require a different motor control mechanism provided equilibrium is not affected and there is no disruption of the continuous rhythmic patterns produced at the ankle.“

And note opportunities for further studies.

“The movements performed by the subjects still involved an on-going, uninterrupted rhythmic pattern of activation between the antagonistic muscles at the ankle. Since we now know the same neural network is responsible for normal walking at different speeds, future studies can give the subjects a freer choice of the types of silly walks they would like to perform (like those seen in Monty Python’s sketch, The Ministry of Silly Walks). In such studies, significant differences in more model parameters might be found.”






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