Purpose: This study examined the effect of combined sensory enhancements and manual assistance on the immediate motor responsiveness of infants with spina bifida during treadmill trials.
Methods: Six infants with spina bifida, aged 4 to 9.5 months, with lesion levels ranging from L4 to S3 were tested in each of 3 randomly ordered sets of enhanced sensory conditions across 3 weekly visits to the laboratory. Sensory enhancements included visual flow, unloading, load, and friction, presented in single and combined applications, as well as a set of trials with manual assistance for stepping at 2 treadmill belt speeds. Dependent variables included step frequencies and overall infant activity.
Results: Friction+load was the most salient of the contextual sensory enhancements. Manual assistance at the slower speed was also effective at increasing infant stepping.
Conclusions: Sensory enhancements that increase stance excursion and vertical clearance during swing need further study.