Sensory Control of Locomotion: Reflexes Versus Higher-Level Control
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In the absence of sensory input, the central nervous system can generate a rhythmical pattern of coordinated activation of limb muscles. Contracting muscles have springlike properties. If synergistic muscles are co-activated in the right way, sustained locomotion can occur. What is the role of sensory input in this scheme? In this chapter we first discuss the implications of positive force feedback control in hindlimb extensor reflexes in the cat. We then raise the question of whether the sensory-evoked responses, which are modest in size and quite delayed in the stance phase, contribute to any significant extent. A locomotor model is used to show that when centrally generated activation levels are low, stretch reflexes can be crucial. However, when these levels are higher, stretch reflexes have a less dramatic role. The more important role for sensory input is probably in mediating higher level control decisions.
KeywordsStance Phase Central Pattern Generator Step Cycle Ground Contact Stretch Reflex
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