Intersegmental coordination of walking movements in stick insects

J Neurophysiol. 2005 Mar;93(3):1255-65. doi: 10.1152/jn.00727.2004. Epub 2004 Nov 3.


Locomotion requires the coordination of movements across body segments, which in walking animals is expressed as gaits. We studied the underlying neural mechanisms of this coordination in a semi-intact walking preparation of the stick insect Carausius morosus. During walking of a single front leg on a treadmill, leg motoneuron (MN) activity tonically increased and became rhythmically modulated in the ipsilateral deafferented and deefferented mesothoracic (middle leg) ganglion. The pattern of modulation was correlated with the front leg cycle and specific for a given MN pool, although it was not consistent with functional leg movements for all MN pools. In an isolated preparation of a pair of ganglia, where one ganglion was made rhythmically active by application of pilocarpine, we found no evidence for coupling between segmental central pattern generators (CPGs) that could account for the modulation of MN activity observed in the semi-intact walking preparation. However, a third preparation provided evidence that signals from the front leg's femoral chordotonal organ (fCO) influenced activity of ipsilateral MNs in the adjacent mesothoracic ganglion. These intersegmental signals could be partially responsible for the observed MN activity modulation during front leg walking. While afferent signals from a single walking front leg modulate the activity of MNs in the adjacent segment, additional afferent signals, local or from contralateral or posterior legs, might be necessary to produce the functional motor pattern observed in freely walking animals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Extremities / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Insecta
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscarinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Periodicity
  • Pilocarpine / pharmacology
  • Postural Balance / drug effects
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Walking / physiology*


  • Muscarinic Agonists
  • Pilocarpine