Analyzing the Development of Locomotor Activity in Infants with Myelomeningocele

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Investigators: Caroline Teulier, Beth A Smith, Masayoshi Kubo, Chia-Lin Chang, Victoria Moerchen, Karin Muraszko, and Beverly D Ulrich.

The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze the development of leg control in infants born with Myelomeningocele (MMC) and with typical development (TD). We are focusing on the quality (control and coordination) and quantity of infants’ stepping movements over the first postnatal year.

We studied 12 infants in each group (MMC and TD), longitudinally, at ages 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months, at the onset of walking and after 3 months of walking experience. All infants with MMC have a myelomeningocele located at a sacral or lumbar level. Infants with TD were without known cognitive, sensory or motor impairments. We supported them on a table top in 4 attempts to elicit newborn stepping response, and on a small motorized treadmill for 10 trials of 20s. Subsequently we monitored their supine spontaneous leg movements for 5 minutes. Reflective markers were placed bilaterally on leg joints; data were captured using a 6-camera Peak Motus™ system. EMG electrodes were placed on gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior, quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Results will help us understand the impact of internal (spinal cord lesions) and external (environmental) factors on motor skill acquisition in humans, and also help us to design therapeutic interventions that facilitate the acquisition of walking and lower limb control in infants with MMC.

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