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Learning to walk on err

Calculated missteps open gait to flexible adjustments

2:03pm, October 20, 2011

Stroke survivors and other patients trying to relearn how to walk due to weakness on one side of the body may reap benefits from being forced to stumble and stagger.

Healthy adults made to switch between a regular and an unusual walking pattern on a special treadmill relearned the strange stride much faster the next day than volunteers who had practiced only the unusual gait, neuroscientist Amy Bastian of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and her colleagues report in a study in the Oct. 19 Journal of Neuroscience.

Not surprisingly, participants who learned and then unlearned an unusual walking pattern while adjusting to a new walking style took lots of clumsy steps when trying to relearn the original pattern, some reminiscent of Monty Python’s old skit about the Ministry of Silly Walks. Yet these individuals had the last laugh, because they learned how to correct awkward leg limps and body lurches that occur in the early stages of adapting to

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