Poststroke hemiparesis impairs the rate but not magnitude of adaptation of spatial and temporal locomotor features

Douglas N. Savin, Shih Chiao Tseng, Jill Whitall, Susanne M. Morton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background. Persons with stroke and hemiparesis walk with a characteristic pattern of spatial and temporal asymmetry that is resistant to most traditional interventions. It was recently shown in nondisabled persons that the degree of walking symmetry can be readily altered via locomotor adaptation. However, it is unclear whether stroke-related brain damage affects the ability to adapt spatial or temporal gait symmetry. Objective. Determine whether locomotor adaptation to a novel swing phase perturbation is impaired in persons with chronic stroke and hemiparesis. Methods. Participants with ischemic stroke (14) and nondisabled controls (12) walked on a treadmill before, during, and after adaptation to a unilateral perturbing weight that resisted forward leg movement. Leg kinematics were measured bilaterally, including step length and single-limb support (SLS) time symmetry, limb angle center of oscillation, and interlimb phasing, and magnitude of "initial" and "late" locomotor adaptation rates were determined. Results. All participants had similar magnitudes of adaptation and similar initial adaptation rates both spatially and temporally. All 14 participants with stroke and baseline asymmetry temporarily walked with improved SLS time symmetry after adaptation. However, late adaptation rates poststroke were decreased (took more strides to achieve adaptation) compared with controls. Conclusions. Mild to moderate hemiparesis does not interfere with the initial acquisition of novel symmetrical gait patterns in both the spatial and temporal domains, though it does disrupt the rate at which "late" adaptive changes are produced. Impairment of the late, slow phase of learning may be an important rehabilitation consideration in this patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-34
Number of pages11
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • gait
  • hemiplegia
  • locomotion
  • motor adaptation
  • motor learning
  • stroke
  • walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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