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The walking-(and searching-) pattern generator of stick insects, a modular system composed of reflex chains and endogenous oscillators


Stick insects (Cuniculina impigra) possessing only one front leg with restrained coxa performed searching movements or “walked” on a treadband. The movements are described. Ablation, surgical manipulation or experimental stimulation of different sense organs (femoral chordotonal organ, campaniform sensilla on trochanter and femur basis, proprioceptors at the coxatrochanter joint) were performed, and the resulting changes in motor output were recorded. These experiments demonstrate that the walking- and searching-pattern generators cannot be separated, at least not for the movements investigated. This walking- and searching-pattern generator consists of central modules, each of which produces irregular alternation of the activity of motor neurones of antagonistic muscles of a single joint, and of “reflex loops”. At least some of these reflex loops are only present in the active animal. They are responsible either for the control of a single joint or for the coordination of the movements of separate joints. The performance of these reflexes does not only depend on the state of activity of the animal; some of them additionally seem to depend on the context signalled by other sense organs.

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Bässler, U. The walking-(and searching-) pattern generator of stick insects, a modular system composed of reflex chains and endogenous oscillators. Biol. Cybern. 69, 305–317 (1993).

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  • Sense Organ
  • Central Module
  • Modular System
  • Motor Neurone
  • Active Animal