The researchers said even before infants stand up they have a rough idea of how to walk and need only some time to lay down the right neural wiring.

Understanding how babies take their first steps can also help us to improve the rehabilitation of patients recovering from spinal cord injury, and children with cerebral palsy, they said.

"We look at the emergence of walking behaviours in both human babies and infant animals, as they develop," said Nadia Dominici from VU University in Netherlands.

"We are showing that humans and other terrestrial animals learn how to walk in surprisingly similar ways," Dominici said.

The findings showed that movements such as walking are created from the flexible combination of a small set of groups of muscles that simplify the control of locomotion, called 'locomotor primitives,' researchers said.

"We found that human babies are born with just two walking primitives: the first directs the legs to bend and extend; the second commands the baby's legs to alternate - left, right, left, right - in order to move forward," said Dominici.

"To walk independently, babies learn two more primitives, which we believe handle balance control, step timing and weight shifting," she added.

These primitives are unexpectedly alike throughout the different animals that researchers studied.

"Despite all of the differences in body structure and evolution, locomotion in several animal species could start from common primitives, maybe even stemming from a common ancestral neural network," said Dominici.

This knowledge could be significant in helping patients with walking disabilities recover some mobility, researchers said.

Dominici said it has already had promising results in rehabilitating injured rats. "Results from the rat study show that it is possible to use neural primitives to improve walking in rats," she said. "We are now studying the applicability of this method to children with cerebral palsy and adults with spinal cord injuries," she added.

Latest News from Lifestyle News Desk