BACKGROUND: Human bipedal gait benefits from arm swing, as it drives and shapes lower limb muscle activity in healthy participants as well as patients suffering from neurological impairment. Also during gait initiation, arm swing instructions were found to facilitate leg muscle recruitment.
RESEARCH QUESTION: The aim of the present study is to exploit the directional decomposition of coherence to examine to what extent forward and backward arm swing contribute to leg muscle recruitment during gait initiation.
METHODS: Ambulant electromyography (EMG) from shoulder muscles (deltoideus anterior and posterior) and upper leg muscles (biceps femoris and rectus femoris) was analysed during gait initiation in nineteen healthy participants (median age of 67 ± 12 (IQR) years). To assess to what extent either deltoideus anterior or posterior muscles were able to drive upper leg muscle activity during distinct stages of the gait initiation process, time dependent intermuscular coherence was decomposed into directional components based on their time lag (i.e. forward, reverse and zero-lag).
RESULTS: Coherence from the forward directed components, representing shoulder muscle signals leading leg muscle signals, revealed that deltoideus anterior (i.e. forward arm swing) and deltoideus posterior (i.e. backward arm swing) equally drive upper leg muscle activity during the gait initiation process.
SIGNIFICANCE: The presently demonstrated time dependent directional intermuscular coherence analysis could be of use for future studies examining directional coupling between muscles or brain areas relative to certain gait (or other time) events. In the present study, this analysis provided neural underpinning that both forward and backward arm swing can provide neuronal support for leg muscle recruitment during gait initiation and can therefore both serve as an effective gait rehabilitation method in patients with gait initiation difficulties.