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Impact of Enhanced Sensory Input on Treadmill Step Frequency: Infants Born With Myelomeningocele

Pantall, Annette PhD; Teulier, Caroline PhD; Smith, Beth A PT, PhD; Moerchen, Victoria PT, PhD; Ulrich, Beverly D. PhD

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e318206eefa
Research Article

Purpose: To determine the effect of enhanced sensory input on the step frequency of infants with myelomeningocele (MMC) when supported on a motorized treadmill.

Methods: Twenty-seven infants aged 2 to 10 months with MMC lesions at, or caudal to, L1 participated. We supported infants upright on the treadmill for 2 sets of 6 trials, each 30 seconds long. Enhanced sensory inputs within each set were presented in random order and included baseline, visual flow, unloading, weights, Velcro, and friction.

Results: Overall friction and visual flow significantly increased step rate, particularly for the older subjects. Friction and Velcro increased stance-phase duration. Enhanced sensory input had minimal effect on leg activity when infants were not stepping.

Conclusions: Increased friction via Dycem and enhancing visual flow via a checkerboard pattern on the treadmill belt appear to be more effective than the traditional smooth black belt surface for eliciting stepping patterns in infants with MMC.

This study demonstrates that increased friction and enhancing visual flow appear more effective than a traditional smooth black belt surface for eliciting stepping patterns in infants with myelomeningocele.

Developmental Neuromotor Control Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Drs Pantall and Ulrich); Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland (Dr Teulier); Balance Disorders Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon (Dr Smith); and Pediatric Neuromotor Laboratory, Department of Human Movement Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Dr Moerchen).

Correspondence: Annette Pantall, PhD, Developmental Neuromotor Control Laboratory, CCRB 4740, 401 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 ().

Grant Support: Funding for this study was received from NIH/NICHD, RO1HD047567 awarded to Dr Ulrich.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.