Enhancement and resetting of locomotor activity by muscle afferents

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 16;860:203-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb09050.x.


The generation of the normal motor pattern for walking in mammals requires feedback from muscle proprioceptors. Two characteristics of the motor pattern particularly dependent on proprioceptive signals are (1) the magnitude of activity in knee and ankle extensor muscles and (2) the duration of extensor bursts during stance. Sensory regulation of these characteristics ensures that the level of activity in extensor muscles during stance is appropriate for the load carried by the leg and that the swing phase is not initiated when a leg is loaded. Many different groups of afferents from flexor and extensor muscles can influence the locomotor pattern. Most attention has focused on the action of group I afferents from ankle extensors. Electrical stimulation of these afferents during extension increases the duration and the magnitude of extensor activity. The prolongation of extensor activity depends in part on excitation of the extensor half-center by group Ib afferents from Golgi tendon organs. The enhancement of the magnitude of extensor bursts is produced primarily via disynaptic and polysynaptic pathways opened only during locomotion. The involvement of the proprioceptive signals in the generation of locomotor activity means that the gains in reflex pathways must be constantly calibrated according to the biomechanical properties of the locomotor system. Alteration of these properties by weakening ankle extensor muscles has recently been found to produce compensatory changes in proprioceptive influences on the locomotor pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Mammals
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*