Studentship Available Analysis of the Upper Body Movements During Gait for the Assessment of Locomotor Ability

Supervisor: Dr Claudia Mazzà

Upper body movements are relevant and informative variables to assess locomotor function and response to intervention, because they are related to critical aspects of walking, such as maintenance of balance, reduction of tissue mechanical loads, and energy efficiency.

Healthy individuals adopt a ‘head stabilization in space’ strategy during walking. This strategy, quantified by a reduction of body segment accelerations going from pelvis to head level, is already in place in pre-pubertal age (Mazzà 2010), and is compromised in elderly women (Mazzà 2008). Gender differences have been reported for children and adults, with females showing a higher ability to minimise head accelerations (Mazzà 2009, 2010). Preliminary data suggest a combined age and gender effect.

However, this effect has not been quantified, and no studies are available comparing elderly males and females. besides the lower limb movements transmitted to the upper body through the pelvis, upper body movements can also be informative of gait variability (defined as stride-to-stride fluctuations of gait parameters), which is sensitive to change due to aging, intervention, and pathology (Lord 2012). Lack of standardised testing protocols and knowledge of reliability of gait variability measurements, however, still limits the interpretability of this data (Galna 2013, Lord 2011).

This project aims at:

  • establishing a lifespan reference metrics for the assessment of the head stabilisation strategy;
  • understanding the link between the control of the upper body movements and gait variability. Experimental methods and data analysis techniques based on the use of wearable inertial sensors will be devised. Data will be recorded during prolonged walking at different speeds for 150 healthy subjects (age range 2-90 years).

The study will provide reference data and measurement procedures for the clinical assessment of life-style based intervention aiming at improving locomotor function and reducing falls in healthy and pathological (e.g. arthritis, Parkinson’s disease) elderly groups.

Further Information

For more information on funding and how to apply please visit the Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing website, via the ‘Apply’ button below.

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