Anticipatory lower limb muscle activity during a turning task
Two experiments were undertaken. The objective of Experiment One was to identify the lower limb muscles that were most frequently active during the early period of a step turning task for further testing in Experiment Two. In Experiment Two participants undertook multiple trials of a step-turning task, 30 and 60° to the left and right of midline, at a self-selected pace in response to a visual cue. There were five objectives to Experiment Two. Firstly, to identify the predominant order in the onset of foot movement so that anticipatory muscle activity could be defined for this task. Secondly, to identify whether there is a consistent temporal order in movement onset between the head and the feet. Thirdly, to identify whether and how consistently anticipatory lower limb muscle activity is present bilaterally. Fourthly, to assess whether there is a consistent sequence in the onset of anticipatory muscle activity among muscles active in at least 80% of trials. The final objective was to identity whether there was a consistent temporal relationship in the onset of the anticipatory muscle activity present in at least 80% of trials, with the onset of head and foot movement. Study Design: A repeated measures design was used. Background: Anticipatory lower limb muscle activity in gait initiation and forward stepping studies has been reported to be consistently present, and associated with initial and important balance responses. Falls during turning are associated with a high incidence of hip fractures in the elderly population. The presence of anticipatory lower limb muscle activity turning has not been previously reported. Participants: There were five participants in Experiment One, and ten in Experiment Two. All were between 18 and 40 years of age and did not have neurological or musculoskeletal disorders, or severe visual loss. Results: In Experiment One, four muscles were consistently active bilaterally, during the early period of step-turning and were: tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, biceps femoris and gluteus medius. In Experiment Two the ipsilateral foot moved before the contralateral foot in 68% of trials towards the left, and 79% of trials towards the right. The onset of head movement consistently occurred before the onset of foot movement during turns towards both directions. The percentage of trials in which the four muscles were active in an anticipatory manner was low bilaterally, ranging from 12 to 38% of trials. Objectives that involved the further analysis of muscles active in at least 80% of trials were unable to be completed. Conclusions: During a step-turning task young healthy adults predominantly move their ipsilateral foot before their contralateral foot. The consistent onset of head movement prior to that of the feet, indirectly suggests that the visual system might influence the temporal onset of the feet. The low levels of anticipatory muscle activity during step-turning suggest that the lower limbs are not involved with the initial balance responses for this task thus making it inherently different to gait initiation and forward stepping.