Fractional stability of trunk acceleration dynamics of daily-life walking: Toward a unified concept of gait stability

Espen A.F. Ihlen*, Kimberley S. van Schooten, Sjoerd M. Bruijn, Mirjam Pijnappels, Jaap H. van Dieën

*Corresponding author for this work

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Over the last decades, various measures have been introduced to assess stability during walking. All of these measures assume that gait stability may be equated with exponential stability, where dynamic stability is quantified by a Floquet multiplier or Lyapunov exponent. These specific constructs of dynamic stability assume that the gait dynamics are time independent and without phase transitions. In this case the temporal change in distance, d(t), between neighboring trajectories in state space is assumed to be an exponential function of time. However, results from walking models and empirical studies show that the assumptions of exponential stability break down in the vicinity of phase transitions that are present in each step cycle. Here we apply a general non-exponential construct of gait stability, called fractional stability, which can define dynamic stability in the presence of phase transitions. Fractional stability employs the fractional indices, α and β, of differential operator which allow modeling of singularities in d(t) that cannot be captured by exponential stability. The fractional stability provided an improved fit of d(t) compared to exponential stability when applied to trunk accelerations during daily-life walking in community-dwelling older adults. Moreover, using multivariate empirical mode decomposition surrogates, we found that the singularities in d(t), which were well modeled by fractional stability, are created by phase-dependent modulation of gait. The new construct of fractional stability may represent a physiologically more valid concept of stability in vicinity of phase transitions and may thus pave the way for a more unified concept of gait stability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number516
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2017


  • Accidental falls
  • Aged 65 and over
  • Fractional calculus
  • Lyapunov exponent
  • Walking dynamics


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