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Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1999 Oct 20;117(1):81-9.

Development of hindlimb postural control during the first postnatal week in the rat.

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CNRS, UPR Neurobiologie et Mouvements (UPR 9011), 31 chemin Joseph Aiguier, F-13402, Marseille, France.


The development of the postural control of hindlimbs was investigated during the first postnatal week in the rat. The whole body was tilted in a vertical plane with the nose up. The proportion of animals producing a complete extension of both hindlimbs increased with age until the end of the first postnatal week. Motor responses were evoked by the pitch tilt already at birth with a slight extension of the hips, the knees and the ankles remaining bent in most cases. The extension produced at the ankle level increased gradually during the first postnatal week. This was correlated with a change in the EMG activity recorded from the triceps surae muscles (ankle extensors) during this postural reaction. There was a gradual acquisition of a tonic pattern. Characteristics of EMG responses changed significantly with age demonstrating an important increase in the use of triceps surae muscles in this postural task. These data demonstrate that the first postnatal week is a critical period for the development of postural reactions in the hindlimbs. They also suggest the existence of a proximo-distal gradient in the maturation of postural control. The mechanisms responsible for this reflex and for the maturation of posture are discussed.

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