The contribution of hindpaw cutaneous inputs to the control of lateral stability during walking in the cat

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Journal of Neurophysiology






American Physiological Society

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To delineate the role of cutaneous feedback from the paws in the regulation of balance during walking, we compared the corrective responses of cats to lateral support surface translation before and after cutaneous denervation of the hindpaws. In addition, we compared characteristics of undisturbed walking before and after denervation. Electromyographic and kinematic data were collected from three cats trained to walk across a walkway, the central portion of which could be unexpectedly translated laterally in either direction. Following denervation, all of the cats changed their step width, lowered their pelvis, and spent more time with the hindlegs in double-support when walking across the walkway. When displaced by lateral support surface translations, the denervated cats made larger lateral steps and required more than a single step to regain balance. However, none of the cats fell following the denervation. The appearance and latency of the responses evoked in the hindleg muscles by the perturbations were unaffected by the denervation. However, the amplitude of these responses was affected by the loss of cutaneous inputs. Responses evoked at paw contact were significantly reduced in most muscles in the absence of cutaneous input, whereas responses evoked at end of stance revealed significant increases in gluteus medius activity with little influence on the activity of other muscles. Therefore the loss of cutaneous inputs leads to instability during gait. Although cutaneous feedback from the hindpaws is not essential for triggering corrective responses to support surface disturbances, it appears that cutaneous inputs are important for scaling the responses initiated by other cues

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