Characteristics and coupling of cardiac and locomotor rhythms during treadmill walking tasks

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Matthew W. Wittstein (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Christopher Rhea

Abstract: Studying the variability of physiological subsystems (e.g., cardiac and locomotor control systems) has been insightful in understanding how functional and dysfunctional patterns emerge within their behaviors. The coupling of these subsystems (termed cardiolocomotor coupling) is believed to be important to maintain healthy functioning in the diverse conditions in which individuals must operate. Aging and pathology result in alterations to both the patterns of individual systems, as well as to how those systems couple to each other. By examining cardiac and locomotor rhythms concurrently during treadmill walking, it is possible to ascertain how these two rhythms relate to each other in different populations (i.e., younger and older adults) and with varying task constraints (i.e., a gait synchronization task or fast walking task). The purpose of this research was to simultaneously document the characteristics of cardiac and gait rhythms in younger (18-35 yrs) and older (63-80 yrs) healthy adults while walking and to establish the extent to which changes in these systems are coupled when gait is constrained. This study consisted of two repeated-measures experiments that participants completed on two separate days. Both experiments consisted of three 15-minute phases. During the first (baseline) and third (retention) phases of both experiments, participants walked with no cues or specific instructions at their preferred walking speed. During the second phase, participants were asked to synchronize their step falls to the timing of a visual cue (experiment 1) or to walk at 125% of their preferred walking speed (experiment 2). Fifty-one healthy adults (26 older, 67.67±4.70 yrs, 1.72±0.09 m, 70.13±14.30 kg; 25 younger, 24.57±4.29 yrs, 1.76±0.09 m, 73.34±15.35 kg) participated in this study. Participants’ cardiac rhythms (R-R interval time series) and locomotor rhythms (stride interval, step width, and step length time series) were measured while walking on a treadmill. Characteristics of variability in cardiac and locomotor rhythms and the coupling between cardiac and gait rhythms were measured. Results revealed that younger and older healthy adults alter gait patterns similarly when presented with a gait synchronization or fast walking task and that these tasks also alter cardiac patterns. Likewise, both groups exhibited enhanced cardiolocomotor coupling when tasked with a step timing constraint or increased speed during treadmill walking. Combined, these findings suggest that walking tasks likely alter both locomotor and cardiac dynamics and the coupling of physiological subsystems could be insightful in understanding the diverse effects aging and pathology have on individuals.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Aging, Cardiolocomotor Coupling, Dynamic Systems, Gait
Aging $x Physiological aspects
Gait in humans
Heart beat

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