Development of righting when falling from a bipedal standing posture: evidence for the dissociation of dynamic and static righting reflexes in rats

Physiol Behav. 1994 Oct;56(4):659-63. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(94)90223-2.


Righting to prone when placed supine on the ground by rats is present at birth, albeit in incomplete form. In contrast, righting in the air when falling from the supine position does not begin to emerge until the end of the first week and is not complete until the end of the third week postnatally. On the ground, the animals have sensory information from proprioceptive-tactile sources, as well as vestibular; in the air, they have only vestibular. Thus, it is possible that the difference between contact righting and air righting is a reflection of the relative difference in the maturation of tactile vs. vestibular mechanisms. In this study, pups were tested by pushing them backwards from a bipedal standing position. Such a context provided proprioceptive-tactile information during the fall. The results showed that the developmental onset and maturation of righting from the bipedal position resembled that of air righting rather than contact righting. This suggests that the difference between air righting and contact righting is not due to differences in sensory inputs, but to differential maturation of neural mechanisms for acceleratory (i.e., falling) vs. stationary (i.e., lying on the ground) forms of righting. That is, the appropriate neural systems are organized for the type of righting, not for the sensory systems used. Even so, some evidence is provided suggesting a developmental dissociation between righting from falling with vestibular information only, and with proprioceptive-tactile information in addition. Therefore, righting systems appear to need two dimensions of classification--one based on sensory systems involved, and the other in terms of the context of righting (i.e., falling vs. stationary).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Rats
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / growth & development