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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities

Current Research

Longitudinal Study of Early Treadmill Performance in Infants At Risk for Cerebral Palsy

Contact: Rosa Angulo Barrosso (
Dale Ulrich (

Previous research has demonstrated that treadmill training in infants with Down syndrome facilitates walking onset. However, whether this type of intervention may benefit infants at risk for cerebral palsy (CP), who also have motor difficulties, remains unknown. Furthermore, the amount of motor activity produced during early infancy has been shown to be correlated with the onset of later independent locomotion. Little is known about the levels of motor activity in infants at risk for CP. Therefore, the purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) to describe the developmental profiles of treadmill stepping behaviors in infants at risk for CP, and (2) to describe their trunk and leg motor activity patterns. We videotaped 5 minutes of supported treadmill stepping every other month until the infant either walked or reached two years of age. In addition, activity monitors were placed on the right ankle and right hip for 24 continuous hours. Videos were coded for both the type of step (single, parallel, alternating) and quality of foot placement (flat or toe). Results demonstrated that over time infants: 1) increased their frequency of alternating steps; 2) increased their frequency of flat-footed contacts; 3) increased the level of trunk motor activity. While non-diagnosed infants demonstrated greater levels of alternating steps and less toe contacts at earlier ages, both groups followed similar developmental trajectories in their response to the treadmill. These data suggest that except for the most severe cases of CP, infants are capable of responding to the treadmill by generating alternating steps. Furthermore, the quantity and quality of the steps improve with developmental time. Therefore, the potential for a treadmill stepping intervention is plausible with this population.

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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities
401 Washtenaw Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2214
(734)936-2607, Fax (734)936-1925

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Created September 1, 1999