The motor cortex drives the muscles during walking in human subjects

Tue Petersen, M Willerslev-Olsen, Bernard A Conway, J.B. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Citations (Scopus)


It is often assumed that automatic movements such as walking require little conscious attention and it has therefore been argued that these movements require little cortical control.  In humans, however, the gait function is often heavily impaired or completely lost following cortical lesions such as stroke.  In this study we investigated synchrony between cortical signals recorded with electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyographic signals (EMG activity) recorded from the tibialis anterior muscle (TA) during walking.  We found evidence of synchrony in the frequency domain (coherence) between the primary motor cortex and the TA muscle indicating a cortical involvement in human gait function.  This finding underpins the importance of restoration of the activity and connectivity between the motor cortex and the spinal cord in the recovery of gait function in patients with damage of the central nervous system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2443-2452
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number10
Early online date5 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2012


  • walking
  • treadmill walking
  • walking muscles
  • corticospinal tract


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