Forelimb movements contribute to hindlimb cutaneous reflexes during locomotion in cats

J Neurophysiol. 2024 Jun 1;131(6):997-1013. doi: 10.1152/jn.00104.2024. Epub 2024 May 1.


During quadrupedal locomotion, interactions between spinal and supraspinal circuits and somatosensory feedback coordinate forelimb and hindlimb movements. How this is achieved is not clear. To determine whether forelimb movements modulate hindlimb cutaneous reflexes involved in responding to an external perturbation, we stimulated the superficial peroneal nerve in six intact cats during quadrupedal locomotion and during hindlimb-only locomotion (with forelimbs standing on stationary platform) and in two cats with a low spinal transection (T12-T13) during hindlimb-only locomotion. We compared cutaneous reflexes evoked in six ipsilateral and four contralateral hindlimb muscles. Results showed similar occurrence and phase-dependent modulation of short-latency inhibitory and excitatory responses during quadrupedal and hindlimb-only locomotion in intact cats. However, the depth of modulation was reduced in the ipsilateral semitendinosus during hindlimb-only locomotion. Additionally, longer-latency responses occurred less frequently in extensor muscles bilaterally during hindlimb-only locomotion, whereas short-latency inhibitory and longer-latency excitatory responses occurred more frequently in the ipsilateral and contralateral sartorius anterior, respectively. After spinal transection, short-latency inhibitory and excitatory responses were similar to both intact conditions, whereas mid- or longer-latency excitatory responses were reduced or abolished. Our results in intact cats and the comparison with spinal-transected cats suggest that the absence of forelimb movements suppresses inputs from supraspinal structures and/or cervical cord that normally contribute to longer-latency reflex responses in hindlimb extensor muscles.NEW & NOTEWORTHY During quadrupedal locomotion, the coordination of forelimb and hindlimb movements involves central circuits and somatosensory feedback. To demonstrate how forelimb movement affects hindlimb cutaneous reflexes during locomotion, we stimulated the superficial peroneal nerve in intact cats during quadrupedal and hindlimb-only locomotion as well as in spinal-transected cats during hindlimb-only locomotion. We show that forelimb movement influences the modulation of hindlimb cutaneous reflexes, particularly the occurrence of long-latency reflex responses.

Keywords: cutaneous reflexes; interlimb coordination; locomotion; spinal cord injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Forelimb* / physiology
  • Hindlimb* / physiology
  • Locomotion* / physiology
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / physiology
  • Reflex* / physiology
  • Skin / innervation
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / physiopathology