Local Loss of Proprioception Results in Disruption of Interjoint Coordination During Locomotion in the Cat
To investigate the role of localized, proprioceptive feedback in the regulation of interjoint coordination during locomotion, we substantially attenuated neural feedback from the triceps surae muscles in one hindlimb in each of four cats using the method of self-reinnervation. After allowing the recovery of motor innervation, the animals were filmed during level and ramp walking. Deficits were small or undetectable during walking on the level surface or up the ramp, behaviors that require a large range of forces in the triceps surae muscles. During walking down the ramp, when the triceps surae muscles normally undergo active lengthening, the ankle joint underwent a large yield and the coordination between ankle and knee was disrupted. The correlation of the deficit with the direction of length change and not muscle force suggested that a loss of feedback from muscle spindle receptors was primarily responsible for the deficit. These results indicate an important role for the stretch reflex and stiffness regulation during locomotion.