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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2005 Nov;191(11):1037-54. Epub 2005 Nov 4.

Kinematics and motor activity during tethered walking and turning in the cockroach, Blaberus discoidalis.

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Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-7080, USA.


When insects turn from walking straight, their legs have to follow different motor patterns. In order to examine such pattern change precisely, we stimulated single antenna of an insect, thereby initiating its turning behavior, tethered over a lightly oiled glass plate. The resulting behavior included asymmetrical movements of prothoracic and mesothoracic legs. The mesothoracic leg on the inside of the turn (in the apparent direction of turning) extended the coxa-trochanter and femur-tibia joints during swing rather than during stance as in walking, while the outside mesothoracic leg kept a slow walking pattern. Electromyograms in mesothoracic legs revealed consistent changes in the motor neuron activity controlling extension of the coxa-trochanter and femur-tibia joints. In tethered walking, depressor trochanter activity consistently preceded slow extensor tibia activity. This pattern was reversed in the inside mesothoracic leg during turning. Also for turning, extensor and depressor motor neurons of the inside legs were activated in swing phase instead of stance. Turning was also examined in free ranging animals. Although more variable, some trials resembled the pattern generated by tethered animals. The distinct inter-joint and inter-leg coordination between tethered turning and walking, therefore, provides a good model to further study the neural control of changing locomotion patterns.

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