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Title: Evaluation of force feedback in walking using joint torques as 'naturalistic' stimuli
Control of adaptive walking requires the integration of sensory signals of muscle force and load. We have studied how mechanoreceptors (tibial campaniform sensilla) encode 'naturalistic' stimuli derived from joint torques of stick insects walking on a horizontal substrate. Previous studies showed that forces applied to the legs using the mean torque profiles of a proximal joint were highly effective in eliciting motor activities. However, substantial variations in torque direction and magnitude occurred at the more distal femoro-tibial joint, which can generate braking or propulsive forces and provide lateral stability. To determine how these forces are encoded, we utilized torque waveforms of individual steps that had maximum values in stance in the directions of flexion or extension. Analysis of kinematic data showed that the torques in different directions tended to occur in different ranges of joint angles. Variations within stance were not accompanied by comparable changes in joint angle but often reflected vertical ground reaction forces and leg support of body load. Application of torque waveforms elicited sensory discharges with variations in firing frequency similar to those seen in freely walking insects. All sensilla directionally encoded the dynamics of force increases and showed hysteresis to transient force decreases. Smaller receptors exhibited more tonic firing. Our findings suggest that dynamic sensitivity in force feedback can modulate ongoing muscle activities to stabilize distal joints when large forces are generated at proximal joints. Further, use of 'naturalistic' stimuli can reproduce characteristics seen in freely moving animals that are absent in conventional restrained preparations.  more » « less
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Journal of Neurophysiology
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National Science Foundation
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