Dynamic sensorimotor interactions in locomotion

Physiol Rev. 2006 Jan;86(1):89-154. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00028.2005.


Locomotion results from intricate dynamic interactions between a central program and feedback mechanisms. The central program relies fundamentally on a genetically determined spinal circuitry (central pattern generator) capable of generating the basic locomotor pattern and on various descending pathways that can trigger, stop, and steer locomotion. The feedback originates from muscles and skin afferents as well as from special senses (vision, audition, vestibular) and dynamically adapts the locomotor pattern to the requirements of the environment. The dynamic interactions are ensured by modulating transmission in locomotor pathways in a state- and phase-dependent manner. For instance, proprioceptive inputs from extensors can, during stance, adjust the timing and amplitude of muscle activities of the limbs to the speed of locomotion but be silenced during the opposite phase of the cycle. Similarly, skin afferents participate predominantly in the correction of limb and foot placement during stance on uneven terrain, but skin stimuli can evoke different types of responses depending on when they occur within the step cycle. Similarly, stimulation of descending pathways may affect the locomotor pattern in only certain phases of the step cycle. Section ii reviews dynamic sensorimotor interactions mainly through spinal pathways. Section iii describes how similar sensory inputs from the spinal or supraspinal levels can modify locomotion through descending pathways. The sensorimotor interactions occur obviously at several levels of the nervous system. Section iv summarizes presynaptic, interneuronal, and motoneuronal mechanisms that are common at these various levels. Together these mechanisms contribute to the continuous dynamic adjustment of sensorimotor interactions, ensuring that the central program and feedback mechanisms are congruous during locomotion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Membranes / physiology