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J Neurosci Methods. 2006 Dec 15;158(2):195-206. Epub 2006 Jul 5.

Tethered stick insect walking: a modified slippery surface setup with optomotor stimulation and electrical monitoring of tarsal contact.

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Department of Animal Physiology, Institute for Zoology, University of Cologne, Weyertal 119, 50923 Cologne, Germany.


A modified and improved setup based on Epstein and Graham [Epstein S, Graham D. Behaviour and motor output of stick insects walking on a slippery surface. I. Forward walking. J Exp Biol 1983;105: 215-29] to study straight and curve walking in the stick insect was developed and applications for its use are described. The animal is fixed on a balsa stick and walks freely on a slippery surface created with a thin film of a glycerin/water solution on a black, Ni-coated, polished brass plate. The glycerine/water ratio controls the viscosity of the lubricant and thereby the forces necessary to move the legs of the stick insect. A small amount of NaCl is added to ensure electric conductivity. Walking is induced through an optomotor stimulus given by two stripe-projectors producing rotatory and translatory stimuli to influence walking direction. The walking pattern is monitored in two ways: (1) tarsal contact with the slippery surface is measured electrically using a lock-in-amplifier. The tarsal contact signal allows correlation with the activity in different muscles of the stick insect leg recorded with EMG electrodes; (2) leg kinematics in the horizontal plane is monitored using synchronized high speed video. This setup allows us to determine the coupling of activity in different leg muscles to either swing or stance phase during straight and curve walking in the intact animal or the reduced single-leg preparation with a high time resolution.

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