Contextual Interference During Adaptation To Asymmetric Split-Belt Treadmill Walking Results In Transfer Of Unique Gait Mechanics

When humans make errors in stepping during walking due to a perturbation, they may adapt their gait as a way to correct for discrepancies between predicted and actual sensory feedback. This study sought to determine if increased contextual interference during acquisition of a novel asymmetric gait pattern would change lower-limb mechanical strategies generalized to different walking contexts. Such knowledge could help to clarify the role of contextual interference in locomotor adaptation, and demonstrate potential use in future gait rehabilitation paradigms. One belt on a split-belt treadmill was driven at a constant velocity while the other was driven at changing velocities according to one of three practice paradigms: serial, random blocked, or random training. Subjects returned to complete one of two different transfer tests. Results indicate that during acquisition, random practice requires unique gait mechanics to adapt to a challenging walking environment. Also, results from one transfer test close to that of the acquisition experience did not seem to demonstrate any contextual interference effect. Finally, random blocked practice resulted in highly unique changes in step length symmetry on a second, more challenging, transfer test. This perhaps indicates that a moderate level of contextual interference causes unique locomotor generalization strategies.