Targeting CNS Neural Mechanisms of Gait in Stroke Neurorehabilitation

SOURCE: Brain Sciences. 12(8) (no pagination), 2022. Article Number: 1055.


AUTHORS: McCabe J.P.; Pundik S.; Daly J.J.

ABSTRACT: The central nervous system (CNS) control of human gait is complex, including descending cortical control, affective ascending neural pathways, interhemispheric communication, whole brain networks of functional connectivity, and neural interactions between the brain and spinal cord. Many important studies were conducted in the past, which administered gait training using externally targeted methods such as treadmill, weight support, over-ground gait coordination training, functional electrical stimulation, bracing, and walking aids. Though the phenomenon of CNS activity-dependent plasticity has served as a basis for more recently developed gait training methods, neurorehabilitation gait training has yet to be precisely focused and quantified according to the CNS source of gait control. Therefore, we offer the following hypotheses to the field:

HYPOTHESIS 1: Gait neurorehabilitation after stroke will move forward in important ways if research studies include brain structural and functional characteristics as measures of response to treatment.

HYPOTHESIS 2: Individuals with persistent gait dyscoordination after stroke will achieve greater recovery in response to interventions that incorporate the current and emerging knowledge of CNS function by directly engaging CNS plasticity and pairing it with peripherally directed, plasticity-based motor learning interventions.

These hypotheses are justified by the increase in the study of neural control of motor function, with emerging research beginning to elucidate neural factors that drive recovery. Some are developing new measures of brain function. A number of groups have developed and are sharing sophisticated, curated databases containing brain images and brain signal data, as well as other types of measures and signal processing methods for data analysis. It will be to the great advantage of stroke survivors if the results of the current state-of-the-art and emerging neural function research can be applied to the development of new gait training interventions.