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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Kinesiology

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Richard van Emmerik

Second Advisor

Jane Kent

Third Advisor

Brian Umberger

Fourth Advisor

John Staudenmayer

Subject Categories

Biomechanics | Motor Control

Abstract

Successful walking necessitates modifying locomotor patterns when encountering organism, task, or environmental constraints. The structure of stride-to-stride variance (fractal dynamics) may represent the adaptive capacity of the locomotor system. To date, however, fractal dynamics have been assessed during unperturbed walking. Quantifying gait adaptability requires tasks that compel locomotor patterns to adapt. The purpose of this dissertation was to determine the potential relationship between fractal dynamics and gait adaptability. The studies presented herein represent a necessary endeavor to incorporate both an analysis of gait fractal dynamics and a task requiring adaptation of locomotor patterns. The adaptation task involved walking asymmetrically on a split-belt treadmill, whereby individuals adapted the relative phasing between legs. This experimental design provided a better understanding of the prospective relationship between fractal dynamics and adaptive capacity. Results from the first study indicated there was no association between unperturbed walking fractal dynamics and gait adaptability in young, healthy adults. However, there was an emergent relationship between asymmetric walking fractal dynamics and gait adaptability. Moreover, fractal dynamics increased during asymmetric walking. The second study investigated fractal dynamics and gait adaptability in healthy, active young and older adults. The findings from study 2 showed no differences between young and older adults regarding unperturbed or asymmetric walking fractal dynamics, or gait adaptability performance. The second study provided further evidence for the lack of association between unperturbed fractal dynamics and gait adaptability. Furthermore, study 2 delivered additional support that asymmetric walking not only yields increased fractal scaling values, but also associates with adaptive gait performance in older adults. Finally, while the first two studies explored stride time monofractality during various walking tasks, the third study aimed to understand the potential multifractality, i.e. temporal evolution of fractal dynamics, of unperturbed and asymmetric walking. The results suggest that unperturbed walking is monofractal in nature, while more challenging asymmetric walking reveals multifractal characteristics, and that multifractality does not associate with adaptive gait performance. This dissertation provides preliminary evidence for the lack of relationship between gait adaptability and unperturbed fractal dynamics, and the emergent association between adaptive gait and asymmetric walking fractality.

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