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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Apr;97(4):2663-75. Epub 2007 Feb 7.

Motor strategies used by rats spinalized at birth to maintain stance in response to imposed perturbations.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University College of Medicine, 2900 Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19129, USA.


Some rats spinalized P1/P2 achieve autonomous weight-supported locomotion and quiet stance as adults. We used force platforms and robot-applied perturbations to test such spinalized rats (n = 6) that exhibited both weight-supporting locomotion and stance, and also normal rats (n = 8). Ground reaction forces in individual limbs and the animals' center of pressure were examined. In normal rats, both forelimbs and hindlimbs participated actively to control horizontal components of ground reaction forces. Rostral perturbations increased forelimb ground reaction forces and caudal perturbations increased hindlimb ground reaction forces. Operate rats carried 60% body weight on the forelimbs and had a more rostral center of pressure placement. The pattern in normal rats was to carry significantly more weight on the hindlimbs in quiet stance (roughly 60%). The strategy of operate rats to compensate for perturbations was entirely in forelimbs; as a result, the hindlimbs were largely isolated from the perturbation. Stiffness magnitude of the whole body was measured: its magnitude was hourglass shaped, with the principal axis oriented rostrocaudally. Operate rats were significantly less stiff--only 60-75% of normal rats' stiffness. The injured rats adopt a stance strategy that isolates the hindlimbs from perturbation and may thus prevent hindlimb loadings. Such loadings could initiate reflex stepping, which we observed. This might activate lumbar pattern generators used in their locomotion. Adult spinalized rats never achieve independent hindlimb weight-supported stance. The stance strategy of the P1 spinalized rats differed strongly from the behavior of intact rats and may be difficult for rats spinalized as adults to master.

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