Shared and Task-Specific Muscle Synergies during Normal Walking and Slipping Academic Article uri icon


  • Falling accidents are costly due to their prevalence in the workplace. Slipping has been known to be the main cause of falling. Understanding the motor response used to regain balance after slipping is crucial to developing intervention strategies for effective recovery. Interestingly, studies on spinalized animals and studies on animals subjected to electrical microstimulation have provided major evidence that the Central Nervous System (CNS) uses motor primitives, such as muscle synergies, to control motor tasks. Muscle synergies are thought to be a critical mechanism used by the CNS to control complex motor tasks by reducing the dimensional complexity of the system. Even though synergies have demonstrated potential for indicating how the body responds to balance perturbations by accounting for majority of the data set's variability, this concept has not been applied to slipping. To address this gap, data from 11 healthy young adults were collected and analyzed during both unperturbed walking and slipping. Applying an iterative non-negative matrix decomposition technique, four muscle synergies and the corresponding time-series activation coefficients were extracted. The synergies and the activation coefficients were then compared between baseline walking and slipping to determine shared vs. task-specific synergies. Correlation analyses found that among four synergies, two synergies were shared between normal walking and slipping. However, the other two synergies were task-specific. Both limbs were contributing to each of the four synergies, suggesting substantial inter-limb coordination during gait and slip. These findings stay consistent with previous unilateral studies that reported similar synergies between unperturbed and perturbed walking. Activation coefficients corresponding to the two shared synergies were similar between normal walking and slipping for the first 200 ms after heel contact and differed later in stance, suggesting the activation of muscle synergies in response to a slip. A muscle synergy approach would reveal the used sub-tasks during slipping, facilitating identification of impaired sub-tasks, and potentially leading to a purposeful rehabilitation based on damaged sub-functions.

author list (cited authors)

  • Nazifi, M. M., Yoon, H. U., Beschorner, K., & Hur, P.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017 11:11 AM