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Modularity underlying the performance of unusual locomotor tasks inspired by developmental milestones

Abstract : Motor behaviors are often hypothesized to be set up from the combination of a small number of modules encoded in the central nervous system. These modules are thought to combine such that a variety of motor tasks can be realized, from reproducible tasks such as walking to more unusual locomotor tasks that typically exhibit more step-by-step variability. We investigated the impact of step-by-step variability on the modular architecture of unusual tasks compared with walking. To this aim, 20 adults had to perform walking and two unusual modes of locomotion inspired by developmental milestones (cruising and crawling). Sixteen surface electromyography (EMG) signals were recorded to extract both spatial and temporal modules. Modules were extracted from both averaged and nonaveraged (i.e., single step) EMG signals to assess the significance of step-to-step variability when participants practiced such unusual locomotor tasks. The number of modules extracted from averaged data was similar across tasks, but a higher number of modules was required to reconstruct nonaveraged EMG data of the unusual tasks. Although certain walking modules were shared with cruising and crawling, task-specific modules were necessary to account for the muscle patterns underlying these unusual locomotion modes. These results highlight a more complex modularity (e.g., more modules) for cruising and crawling compared with walking, which was only apparent when the step-to-step variability of EMG patterns was considered. This suggests that considering nonaveraged data is relevant when muscle modularity is studied, especially in motor tasks with high variability as in motor development. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study addresses the general question of modularity in locomotor control. We demonstrate for the first time the importance of intraindividual variability in the muscle modularity of unusual locomotor behaviors that exhibit greater step-by-step variability than standard walking. Crawling and cruising, the unusual locomotor modes considered, are based on a more complex modular organization than walking. More spatial and temporal modules, task specific or shared with walking modules, are needed to reconstruct muscle patterns.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 11:08:46 AM
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Elodie Hinnekens, Bastien Berret, Manh-Cuong Do, Caroline Teulier. Modularity underlying the performance of unusual locomotor tasks inspired by developmental milestones. Journal of Neurophysiology, American Physiological Society, 2020, 123 (2), pp.496-510. ⟨10.1152/jn.00662.2019⟩. ⟨hal-03430348⟩



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