This project aims to: (1) determine the effects of repeated perturbation force applied to the trunk during treadmill walking on trunk postural control in children with cerebral palsy (CP); and (2) determine whether varied perturbation force that applied to the trunk would elicit greater retention in trunk postural control than constant perturbation force in children with CP. To improve the walking ability of children with CP, researchers and clinicians have explored the mechanisms underlying abnormal gait and tested various interventions to control and manage the symptoms during abnormal gait. A typical abnormal gait pattern is excessive trunk movement during walking, which is considered a compensatory strategy for lower limb deficits and/or impaired trunk control. Current approaches are suboptimal in improving trunk postural control during walking in children with CP because these approaches are less task-specific for enhancing trunk muscle activation during walking. Therefore, there is a critical need to improve the efficacy of current interventions to improve trunk postural control during walking in children with CP. This proposed project utilizes a new non-invasive approach by using a robotic cable-driven system to enhance motor learning of trunk postural control during gait in children with CP. Specifically, our preliminary results suggest that a walking training with perturbation force applied to the trunk induced aftereffects that involved less trunk tilt angle and greater trunk muscle activity (Aim 1). Moreover, a walking training with varied versus constant perturbation force to the trunk induced longer retention of the decreases in trunk tile angle and increases in trunk muscle activity (Aim 2). The research findings provide evidence for future rational-based intervention strategies to improve trunk postural control and locomotor function in children with CP.
Keywords: locomotion, rehabilitation, physical disabilities, cerebral palsy