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Learn2Walk – Brain meets spine

THE NEURAL ORIGIN OF TODDLERS’ FIRST STEPS

We have an ‘instinct to walk’ from the moment we are born, and even before as those who have held a neonate standing on a table know well: a primitive reflex hardwired in our neural circuitry coined ‘stepping reflex’. It take a while, however, before we can walk independently. Is the development of walking an emergent property, indicative of spontaneously changing cortico-muscular interaction?

In this project, we plan to answer this question by studying the interplay between brain and muscular activity at the onset of independent walking.

  • We perform a combined analysis of the muscular and brain activity in healthy children, to unravel the processes underlying the emergence of basic patterns.
  • We characterize the evolution of the cortico-muscular coherence during the emergence of walking.
  • We probe these findings in the presence of cerebral palsy.

Project Parameters

Launch Date: Feb, 2017

Duration: 5 Years

Funding: ERC – Starting Grant

The main drive of this research is to exploit fundamental insights into locomotor control
to promote normal walking in children with locomotor impairments.

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Objective 1

To unveil biomechanical and neural mechanisms underlying the emergence of walking in typically developing children, through the combined measurement of kinematic, muscular, and cortical activity during gait.

Objective 2

To elucidate biomechanical mechanisms and the reorganization of cortical and cortico-muscular activity accompanying the development of walking in children with cerebral palsy.

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Approaches

Simultaneous assessment of kinematic, EEG, and EMG activation patterns in children will enable us to devise diagnostic and rehabilitation procedures for motor impaired children.

This research will lead to important societal benefits by providing a tool to assess existing locomotor rehabilitation techniques and by pioneering a new rehabilitation protocol tailored on individual patients and their specific locomotor impairment.

Related PhD Projects

NEURAL ORIGIN OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDEPENDENT WALKING IN TYPICALLY DEVELOPING CHILDREN

Coen Zandvoort & Nadia Dominici
We aim to unravel the pivotal neural triggers underlying the emergence of gait. We longitudinally follow a group of typically developing infants and toddlers throughout the first two years of their lives.

Related Research Themes & Projects

FirSteps – The Emergence of Walking in Children

FirSteps – The Emergence of Walking in Children

The first independent step of a child may be small, but it represents a giant leap for its development. This project addresses the emergence of coordination patterns and motor primitives or muscle synergies in typically developing children and in children with cerebral palsy.

Research Partners

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