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J Neurophysiol. 2006 Mar;95(3):1397-409. Epub 2005 Oct 5.

Mechanics of slope walking in the cat: quantification of muscle load, length change, and ankle extensor EMG patterns.

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  • 1Center for Human Movement Studies, School of Applied Physiology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0356, USA.


Unexpected changes in flexor-extensor muscle activation synergies during slope walking in the cat have been explained previously by 1) a reorganization of circuitry in the central pattern generator or 2) altered muscle and cutaneous afferent inputs to motoneurons that modulate their activity. The aim of this study was to quantify muscle length changes, muscle loads, and ground reaction forces during downslope, level, and upslope walking in the cat. These mechanical variables are related to feedback from muscle length and force, and paw pad cutaneous afferents, and differences in these variables between the slope walking conditions could provide additional insight into possible mechanisms of the muscle control. Kinematics, ground reaction forces, and EMG were recorded while cats walked on a walkway in three conditions: downslope (-26.6 deg), level (0 deg), and upslope (26.6 deg). The resultant joint moments were calculated using inverse dynamics analysis; length and velocity of major hindlimb muscle-tendon units (MTUs) were calculated using a geometric model and calculated joint angles. It was found that during stance in downslope walking, the MTU stretch of ankle and knee extensors and MTU peak stretch velocities of ankle extensors were significantly greater than those in level or upslope conditions, whereas forces applied to the paw pad and peaks of ankle and hip extensor moments were significantly smaller. The opposite was true for upslope walking. It was suggested that these differences between upslope and downslope walking might affect motion-dependent feedback, resulting in muscle activity changes recorded here or reported in the literature.

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