Our previous study of cat locomotion demonstrated that lateral displacements of the centre of mass (COM) were strikingly similar to those of human walking and resembled the behaviour of an inverted pendulum (Park et al. 2019 J. Exp. Biol. 222, 14. (doi:10.1242/jeb.198648)). Here, we tested the hypothesis that frontal plane dynamics of quadrupedal locomotion are consistent with an inverted pendulum model. We developed a simple mathematical model of balance control in the frontal plane based on an inverted pendulum and compared model behaviour with that of four cats locomoting on a split-belt treadmill. The model accurately reproduced the lateral oscillations of cats' COM vertical projection. We inferred the effects of experimental perturbations on the limits of dynamic stability using data from different split-belt speed ratios with and without ipsilateral paw anaesthesia. We found that the effect of paw anaesthesia could be explained by the induced bias in the perceived position of the COM, and the magnitude of this bias depends on the belt speed difference. Altogether, our findings suggest that the balance control system is actively involved in cat locomotion to provide dynamic stability in the frontal plane, and that paw cutaneous receptors contribute to the representation of the COM position in the nervous system.
Keywords: centre of mass; dynamic stability; inverted pendulum; locomotion; split-belt treadmill.