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    Robot-Driven Locomotor Perturbations Reveal Synergy- Mediated, Context-Dependent Feedforward and Feedback Mechanisms of Adaptation
    Humans respond to mechanical perturbations that affect their gait by changing their motor control strategy. Previous work indicates that adaptation during gait is context dependent, and perturbations altering long-term stability are compensated for even at the cost of higher energy expenditure. However, it is unclear if gait adaptation is driven by unilateral or bilateral mechanisms, and what the roles of feedback and feedforward control are in the generation of compensatory responses. Here, we used a robot-based adaptation paradigm to investigate if feedback/feedforward and unilateral/bilateral contributions to locomotor adaptation are also context dependent in healthy adults. A robot was used to induce two opposite unilateral mechanical perturbations affecting the step length over multiple gait cycles. Electromyographic signals were collected and analyzed to determine how muscle synergies change in response to perturbations. The results unraveled different unilateral modulation dynamics of the muscle-synergy activations during adaptation, characterized by the combination of a slow-progressive feedforward process and a fast-reactive feedback-driven process. The relative unilateral contributions of the two processes to motor-output adjustments, however, depended on which perturbation was delivered. Overall, these observations provide evidence that, in humans, both descending and afferent drives project onto the same spinal interneuronal networks that encode locomotor muscle synergies.
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