Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp 104–116 | Cite as

Neuromuscular activation patterns during treadmill walking after space flight

  • Charles S. Layne
  • P. Vernon McDonald
  • Jacob J. Bloomberg
Research Article


Astronauts adopt a variety of neuromuscular control strategies during space flight that are appropriate for locomoting in that unique environment, but are less than optimal upon return to Earth. We report here the first systematic investigation of potential adaptations in neuromuscular activity patterns associated with postflight locomotion. Astronaut-subjects were tasked with walking on a treadmill at 6.4 km/h while fixating a visual target 30 cm away from their eyes after space flights of 8–15 days. Surface electromyography was collected from selected lower limb muscles and normalized with regard to mean amplitude and temporal relation to heel strike. In general, high correlations (more than 0.80) were found between preflight and postflight activation waveforms for each muscle and each subject; however, relative activation amplitude around heel strike and toe off was changed as a result of flight. The level of muscle cocontraction and activation variability, and the relationship between the phasic characteristics of the ankle musculature in preparation for toe off also were altered by space flight. Subjects also reported oscillopsia during treadmill walking after flight. These findings indicate that, after space flight, the sensory-motor system can generate neuromuscular-activation strategies that permit treadmill walking, but subtle changes in lower-limb neuromuscular activation are present that may contribute to increased lower limb kinematic variability and oscillopsia also present during postflight walking.

Key words

Electromyography Adaptation Space flight Locomotion Human 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles S. Layne
    • 1
  • P. Vernon McDonald
    • 1
  • Jacob J. Bloomberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Movement and Coordination LaboratoryKRUG Life SciencesHouston, TXUSA
  2. 2.Life Sciences Research LaboratoriesNASA Johnson Space CenterHoustonUSA

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