Chapter

Decoding the Mechanisms of Gait Generation and Gait Transition in the Salamander Using Robots and Mathematical Models

Jeremie Knuesel, Jean-Marie Cabelguen and Auke Ijspeert

in Motor Control

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195395273
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199863518 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195395273.003.0018
Decoding the Mechanisms of Gait Generation and Gait Transition in the Salamander Using Robots and Mathematical Models

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The spinal mechanisms of gait generation and gait transition in vertebrates are still not properly understood. This chapter explores these mechanisms in the salamander, an amphibian capable of swimming and walking. It reviews the current knowledge of salamander locomotion and the underlying locomotor networks, in particular the central pattern generator (CPG) networks in the spinal cord. It also presents how mathematical models and salamander-like robots are being used to test hypotheses concerning the organization of the CPGs and the mechanism of gait transition. Finally, based on new neurophysiological data, novel hypotheses are formulated concerning the role of sensory feedback in shaping the locomotor patterns. Preliminary modeling experiments are presented, showing how sensory feedback can significantly modify centrally generated patterns. Taken together, the findings suggest that the ability of salamanders to switch between swimming and walking can be explained by a spinal cord circuit that is based on a primitive neural circuit for swimming similar to the one found in the lamprey and that is extended by phylogenetically more recent limb oscillatory centers.

Keywords: spinal mechanisms; gait generation; gait transition; salamander; swimming; walking; locomotor networks; central pattern generator

Chapter.  13845 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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