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J Neurosci. 2000 Jan 1;20(1):409-26.

Rapid correction of aimed movements by summation of force-field primitives.

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Neurobiology Department, Medical College of Pennsylvania/Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19129, USA.


Spinal circuits form building blocks for movement construction. In the frog, such building blocks have been described as isometric force fields. Microstimulation studies showed that individual force fields can be combined by vector summation. Summation and scaling of a few force-field types can, in theory, produce a large range of dynamic force-field structures associated with limb behaviors. We tested for the first time whether force-field summation underlies the construction of real limb behavior in the frog. We examined the organization of correction responses that circumvent path obstacles during hindlimb wiping trajectories. Correction responses were triggered on-line during wiping by cutaneous feedback signaling obstacle collision. The correction response activated a force field that summed with an ongoing sequence of force fields activated during wiping. Both impact force and time of impact within the wiping motor pattern scaled the evoked correction response amplitude. However, the duration of the correction response was constant and similar to the duration of other muscles activated in different phases of wiping. Thus, our results confirm that both force-field summation and scaling occur during real limb behavior, that force fields represent fixed-timing motor elements, and that these motor elements are combined in chains and in combination contingent on the interaction of feedback and central motor programs.

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