Locomotion, that is active propulsive movement of the body in space, is a vital motor function. Intensive studies of the main, for the majority of living beings, form of locomotion, forward locomotion, have revealed essential features of the organization and operation of underlying neural mechanisms. However, animals and humans are capable to locomote not only forward but also in other directions in relation to the body axis, e.g. backward, sideways, etc. Single steps in different directions are also used for postural corrections during locomotion and during standing. Recent studies of mechanisms underlying control of locomotion in different directions have greatly expanded our knowledge about locomotor system and can contribute to improvement of rehabilitation strategies aimed at restoration of locomotion and balance control in patients. This review outlines recent advances in the studies of locomotion in different directions in lower and higher vertebrates, with special attention given to the neuronal locomotor mechanisms.
Keywords: backward; reflexes; spinal networks; supraspinal control; swimming; walking.