Load sensing and control of posture and locomotion

Arthropod Struct Dev. 2004 Jul;33(3):273-86. doi: 10.1016/j.asd.2004.05.005.


This article reviews recent findings on how forces are detected by sense organs of insect legs and how this information is integrated in control of posture and walking. These experiments have focused upon campaniform sensilla, receptors that detect forces as strains in the exoskeleton, and include studies of sensory discharges in freely moving animals and intracellular characterization of connectivity of afferent inputs in the central nervous system. These findings provide insights into how campaniform sensilla can contribute to the adjustment of motor outputs to changes in load. In this review we discuss (1) anatomy of the receptors and their activities in freely moving insects, (2) mechanisms by which inputs are incorporated into motor outputs and (3) the integration of sensory signals of diverse modalities. The discharges of some groups of receptors can encode body load when standing. Responses are also correlated with muscle-generated forces during specific times in walking. These activities can enhance motor outputs through reflexes and can affect the timing of motoneuron firing through inputs to pattern generating interneurons. Flexibility in the system is also provided by interactions of afferent inputs at several levels. These mechanisms can contribute to the adaptability of insect locomotion to diverse terrains and environments.