Spinal control of locomotion--from cat to man

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2007 Feb;189(2):111-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.2006.01651.x.


For a large number of vertebrate species it is now indisputable that spinal networks have the capability of generating the basic locomotor rhythm. The aim of this review is to summarize the evidence for spinal pattern generators in cats and primates, including man and its interaction with sensory signals from the limbs. For all species the sensory feed-back from the moving limb is very important to achieve effective locomotor behaviour by adapting to the environment and compensating for unexpected postural disturbances. Sensory regulation of stepping can occur via reflex pathways to motoneurones (by-passing the locomotor rhythm generators) or by acting on the spinal locomotor networks themselves. The sensory feed-back serves to control the timing of the different phases in the step cycle, to shape the pattern of muscle activity, to contribute to the excitatory drive of the motoneurones and to the long-term adaptation of the locomotor activity. In this review we discuss the spinal locomotor circuits and the sensory feed-back in animals (mainly the cat) and human subjects. Special emphasis is given to work that has been of importance for the development of new rehabilitation paradigms following spinal cord injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electromyography
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Hip / physiology
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Primates / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Walking / physiology