Age-related gait changes may be due to the loss of complexity in the neuromuscular system. This theory is disputed due to inconsistent results from single-scale analyses. Also, behavioral adaptations may confound these changes. We examined whether EMG dynamics during gait is less complex in older adults over a range of timescales using the multiscale entropy method, and whether slower walking attenuates this effect. Surface EMG was measured from the left vastus lateralis (VL), biceps femoris (BF), gastrocnemius (GA), and tibialis anterior (TA) in 17 young and 18 older adults as they walked on a treadmill for 5 minutes at 0.8×-1.2× of preferred speed. Sample entropy (SE) and the complexity index (CI) of the EMG signals were calculated after successive coarse-graining to extract dynamics at timescales of 27 to 270 Hz, with m = 2 and r = 0.15 SD. SE and CI were lower across the timescales in older adults in VL and BF, but higher in GA (all p<0.001); these results held for VL and GA even after accounting for longer EMG burst durations in older adults. CI was higher during slower walking speed in VL and BF (p<0.001). Results were mostly similar for m = 3 and r = 0.01-0.35. Smaller r was more sensitive to age-related differences. The decrease in complexity with aging in the timescales studied was limited to proximal muscles, particularly VL. The increase in GA may be driven by other factors. Walking slower may reflect a behavioral adaptation that allows the nervous system to function with greater complexity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)