Motor control in persons with a trans-tibial amputation during cycling
Childers, Walter Lee
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Motor control of any movement task involves the integration of neural, muscular and skeletal systems. This integration must occur throughout the sensorimotor system and focus its efforts on controlling the system endpoint, e.g. the foot during locomotion. A person with a uni-lateral trans-tibial amputation has lost the foot, ankle joint, and muscles crossing those joints, hence the residuum becomes the new terminus of the motor system. The amputee must now adjust to the additional challenges of utilizing a compromised motor system as well as the challenges of controlling an external device, i.e. prosthesis, through the mechanical interface between the residuum and prosthetic socket. The obvious physical and physiologic asymmetries between the sound and amputated limbs are also involved in strategies for locomotion involving kinematic and kinetic asymmetries (Winter&Sienko, 1988). There are many questions as to why these asymmetric locomotor strategies are selected and what factors may be influencing that strategy. Factors influencing a change in locomotor strategy could be related to 1) the central nervous system accounting for the loss of sensorimotor feedback, 2) the altered mechanics of this new human/prosthetic system, or some combination of these factors. Understanding how the human motor system adjusts to the amputation and to the addition of an external mechanical device can provide useful insight into how robust the human control system may be and to adaptations in human motor control. This research uses a group of individuals with a uni-lateral trans-tibial amputation and a group of intact individuals using an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) performing a cycling task to understand the "motor adjustments" necessary to utilize an external device for locomotion. Results of these experiments suggest 1) the motor system does account for the activation-contraction dynamics when coordinating muscle activity post amputation, 2) the motor system also changes joint kinetics and muscle activity, 3) these changes are related to control of the interface between the limb and the external device, and 4) the motor system does not alter kinetic asymmetries when kinematic asymmetries are minimized, contrary to a common practice in rehabilitation (Kapp, 2004). Results suggest that control of the external device, i.e. prosthesis or AFO, via the interface between the limb and the device reflect "motor adjustments" made by the nervous system and may be viewed in the context of tool use. Clinical goals in rehabilitation currently focus on minimizing gait deviations whereas the clinical application of these results suggest these deviations from normal locomotion are motor adjustments necessary to control a tool, i.e. prosthesis, by the motor system. Examining amputee locomotion in the context of tool use changes the clinical paradigm from one designed to minimize deviations to one intended to understand this behavior as related to interface control of the device thereby shifting the focus to improving function of the limb/prosthesis system. Kapp SL. (2004) Atlas amp limb def: surg pros rehab princ. 3rd ed: 385 - 394. Winter&Sienko. (1988) J Biomech, 21: 361 - 367.