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Modular control of varied locomotor tasks in children with incomplete spinal cord injuries.

The purpose of this study was to examine neuromuscular control of reciprocal locomotor tasks in children with ISCIs as well as uninjured children. Across both groups of children, lower extremity muscle activation during five reciprocal locomotor tasks was explained by a small set of motor modules. The data indicate that fewer modules are used to control locomotor tasks in children with ISCIs. For each child, the pattern of muscle activity evident in the modules during treadmill walking explained a high proportion of the variance (VAF values exceeded 86%) in the EMG data recorded during other reciprocal locomotor tasks. This finding was robust in all children in both groups and is consistent with previous studies in animals and healthy adults. Similar modular organization across tasks suggests that the nervous system can construct complex lower extremity movements from a small set of building blocks. Our findings indicate that this fundamental control strategy is present both in uninjured children and following pediatric ISCI.

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