central pattern generator

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A hypothesized complex neural circuitry in the central nervous system containing a set of commands that, when activated, produce a coordinated movement sequence. The central pattern generator is thought to govern rapid motor actions and genetically determined actions. It is capable of producing a rhythm or oscillation in the output from motor neurones to the different muscles involved in a movement pattern. Experiments on spinal cord preparations of cats have shown that this oscillatory output first activates motor neurones to the flexors of the leg, then activates the extensors, then flexors again, in a pattern similar to that displayed in locomotion. See also motor programme.

Subjects: Sports and Exercise Medicine.

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