Possible biomechanical origins of the long-range correlations in stride intervals of walking

Deanna H. Gates, Jimmy L. Su, Jonathan B. Dingwell

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61 Scopus citations


When humans walk, the time duration of each stride varies from one stride to the next. These temporal fluctuations exhibit long-range correlations. It has been suggested that these correlations stem from higher nervous system centers in the brain that control gait cycle timing. Existing proposed models of this phenomenon have focused on neurophysiological mechanisms that might give rise to these long-range correlations, and generally ignored potential alternative mechanical explanations. We hypothesized that a simple mechanical system could also generate similar long-range correlations in stride times. We modified a very simple passive dynamic model of bipedal walking to incorporate forward propulsion through an impulsive force applied to the trailing leg at each push-off. Push-off forces were varied from step to step by incorporating both "sensory" and "motor" noise terms that were regulated by a simple proportional feedback controller. We generated 400 simulations of walking, with different combinations of sensory noise, motor noise, and feedback gain. The stride time data from each simulation were analyzed using detrended fluctuation analysis to compute a scaling exponent, α. This exponent quantified how each stride interval was correlated with previous and subsequent stride intervals over different time scales. For different variations of the noise terms and feedback gain, we obtained short-range correlations (α < 0.5), uncorrelated time series (α = 0.5), long-range correlations (0.5 < α < 1.0), or Brownian motion (α > 1.0). Our results indicate that a simple biomechanical model of walking can generate long-range correlations and thus perhaps these correlations are not a complex result of higher level neuronal control, as has been previously suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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