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J Neurophysiol. 1998 Apr;79(4):1687-701.

Forms of forward quadrupedal locomotion. II. A comparison of posture, hindlimb kinematics, and motor patterns for upslope and level walking.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Science, Laboratory of Neuromotor Control, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-1568, USA.


To gain insight into the neural mechanisms controlling different forms of quadrupedal walking of normal cats, data on postural orientation, hindlimb kinematics, and motor patterns of selected hindlimb muscles were assessed for four grades of upslope walking, from 25 to 100% (45 degrees incline), and compared with similar data for level treadmill walking (0.6 m/s). Kinematic data for the hip, knee, ankle, and metatarsophalangeal joints were obtained from digitizing ciné film that was synchronized with electromyographic (EMG) records from 13 different hindlimb muscles. Cycle periods, the structure of the step cycle, and paw-contact sequences were similar at all grades and typical of lateral-sequence walking. Also, a few half-bound and transverse gallop steps were assessed from trials at the 100% grade; these steps had shorter cycle periods than the walking steps and less of the cycle (68 vs. 56%) was devoted to stance. Each cat assumed a crouched posture at the steeper grades of upslope walking and stride length decreased, whereas the overall position of the stride shifted caudally with respect to the hip joint. At the steeper grades, the range and duration of swing-related flexion increased at all joints, the stance-phase yield was absent at the knee and ankle joints, and the range of stance-phase extension at knee and ankle joints increased. Patterns of muscle activity for upslope and level walking were similar with some notable exceptions. At the steeper grades, the EMG activity of muscles with swing-related activity, such as the digit flexor muscle, the flexor digitorum longus (FDL), and the knee flexor muscle, the semitendinosus (ST), was prolonged and continued well into midswing. The EMG activity of stance-related muscles also increased in amplitude with grade, and three muscles not active during the stance phase of level walking had stance activity that increased in amplitude and duration at the steepest grades; these muscles were the ST, FDL, and extensor digitorum brevis. Overall the changes in posture, hindlimb kinematics, and the activity patterns of hindlimb muscles during upslope walking reflected the need to continually move the body mass forward and upward during stance and to ensure that the paw cleared the inclined slope during swing. The implications of these changes for the neural control of walking and expected changes in hindlimb kinetics for slope walking are discussed.

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