Trade-off between frequency and precision during stepping movements: Kinematic and BOLD brain activation patterns

Martin Martínez, Miguel Valencia, Marta Vidorreta, Elkin O. Luis, Gabriel Castellanos, Federico Villagra, Maria A. Fernández-Seara, Maria A. Pastor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (SciVal)


The central nervous system has the ability to adapt our locomotor pattern to produce a wide range of gait modalities and velocities. In reacting to external pacing stimuli, deviations from an individual preferred cadence provoke a concurrent decrease in accuracy that suggests the existence of a trade-off between frequency and precision; a compromise that could result from the specialization within the control centers of locomotion to ensure a stable transition and optimal adaptation to changing environment. Here, we explore the neural correlates of such adaptive mechanisms by visually guiding a group of healthy subjects to follow three comfortable stepping frequencies while simultaneously recording their BOLD responses and lower limb kinematics with the use of a custom-built treadmill device. In following the visual stimuli, subjects adopt a common pattern of symmetric and anti-phase movements across pace conditions. However, when increasing the stimulus frequency, an improvement in motor performance (precision and stability) was found, which suggests a change in the control mode from reactive to predictive schemes. Brain activity patterns showed similar BOLD responses across pace conditions though significant differences were observed in parietal and cerebellar regions. Neural correlates of stepping precision were found in the insula, cerebellum, dorsolateral pons and inferior olivary nucleus, whereas neural correlates of stepping stability were found in a distributed network, suggesting a transition in the control strategy across the stimulated range of frequencies: from unstable/reactive at lower paces (i.e., stepping stability managed by subcortical regions) to stable/predictive at higher paces (i.e., stability managed by cortical regions).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1722-1737
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number5
Early online date09 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2016


  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rest
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Predictive strategy
  • Reactive strategy
  • Lower limb movements
  • Effect of frequency
  • Locomotion
  • Precision
  • Kinematics
  • Functional neuroimaging


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