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Ansgar BüschgesNeural Control of Locomotion - from Joint Control to Adaptive Locomotor Behaviours

Abstract :


When animals move, the underlying motor output commands and the movements they generate are the outcome of complex neuronal and neuromuscular processes that together enable the production of behaviour that although seemingly automatic, remains adaptable to changes in the external environment.
Understanding the neural basis of movement is contributing much to unravelling the function of the nervous systems of animals and humans alike, and is also important for research in robotics where the aim is to develop autonomously and realistically performing machines.
Walking is one of the most common means of locomotion in terrestrial animals. The propulsive movements of an animal's limbs arise from the interactions of descending brain signals for the selection, initiation and maintenance of locomotory actions, with the activity of local central pattern generating networks, feedback from sensory neurons about movements and forces generated in the locomotory limbs and finally, with coordinating signals from neighbouring appendages to ensure their proper coordination. Over the last two decades, substantial information has been gathered on how functional walking motor outputs are generated. Among the best investigated animals are a number of vertebrates and arthropods such as crayfish, cockroach and the stick insect. Recent data acquired on the stick insect leg muscle control system has led to the formulation of basic neural controller architecture for single-leg stepping.
My seminar will address current knowledge about network organization and action underlying the control of insect walking and recent advances made in understanding the ways by which modifications in the motor output for walking are produced in order to enable adaptive locomotory behaviour. The information gained on this simpler model system will be placed in the broader context of motor control in general.

Selected publications

Akay, T., Ludwar, B.C., Göritz, M., Schmitz, J., Büschges, A. (2007) Segment specificity of load signal processing depends on walking direction in the stick insect leg muscle control system. J. Neurosci. 27: 3285-3294
Borgmann, A., Hooper, S.L., Büschges, A. (2009) Activation and Interaction of Central Pattern Generators in a Walking Insect. J. Neurosci. 29: 2972-2983
Büschges, A. (2005) Sensory control and organization of neural networks mediating coordination of multisegmental organs for locomotion. J. Neurophysiol. 93: 1127-1135
Büschges, A., Schmitz, J., Bässler, U. (1995) Rhythmic patterns in the thoracic nerve cord of the stick insect induced by pilocarpine. J. Exp. Biol. 198: 435-456
Gruhn, M., Zehl, L., Büschges, A. (2009) Straight walking and turning on the slippery surface. J. Exp. Biol. 212: 194-209
Hooper, S.L., Guschlbauer, C., Blümel, M., Büschges, A. (2009) Neural Control of Unloaded Leg Posture and of Leg Swing in Stick Insect, cockroach, and Mouse Differs from That in Larger Animals. J. Neurosci. 29: 4109-4119

John Simmers