Stride-time variability and sensorimotor cortical activation during walking

Max J. Kurz, Tony W. Wilson, David J. Arpin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


The time it takes between consecutive foot contacts from the same leg is referred to as the stride-time interval. Several investigations have shown that the variations that are present in the stride time intervals are linked to walking balance. In this study, functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) was utilized to evaluate whether activation in the medial sensorimotor cortices reflects the amount of variations seen in the stride-time intervals. Thirteen healthy adults (Age = 23.7 ± 1.4. yrs.) walked forwards and backwards on a programmable treadmill. Each walking condition consisted of two sessions, with each being comprised of five alternating blocks of standing still or walking at 0.45. m/s. Activation in the medial sensorimotor cortices was measured using an fNIRS system, which consisted of a 4 × 4 grid of infrared optode emitter/detector pairs. The optodes were positioned on the participant's head using the International 10/20 system with Cz located beneath the center of the front two rows of optodes. We evaluated the block-wise changes in the amount of oxygenated (oxyHb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (deoxyHb) in the channels that were located over the supplementary motor area, pre-central gyrus, post-central gyrus and superior parietal lobule. Throughout the experiment, a footswitch system was used to concurrently measure the amount of variation present in the stride-time intervals. Our results showed that oxyHb was greater in the supplementary motor area, pre-central gyrus, and superior parietal lobule when participants walked backwards rather than forwards, which suggests that backward walking presents more of a challenge to the nervous system as it controls the stepping pattern. Additionally, there was a significant decrease in the amount of deoxyHb present in the supplementary motor area while walking backward. Consistent with previous investigations, we noted that the amount of variability present in the stride-time intervals was greater during backward walking compared to forward walking. In addition, the amount of variation in the stride-time intervals while walking forward was positively correlated with the maximum oxyHb response found in the pre-central gyrus and supplementary motor area, which has not been previously shown. This neurobehavioral relationship supports the notion that the subtle variations found in the stride-time intervals are partly associated with processing demands by the motor cortices for regulating the forward temporal kinematics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1602-1607
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2012


  • Cortex
  • Gait
  • Locomotion
  • Mobile brain imaging
  • NIRS
  • Optical imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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