Neural Control of Locomotion

Giuliano Taccola

Amount of frontal teaching:
15 hours


Walking is a relatively stereotyped motor behavior that allows overground movement of limbed animals. In these organisms, locomotion consists in the rhythmic reiteration of a basic motor scheme, the gait. A remarkable network of spinal interneurons, named Central Pattern Generator (CPG) and mainly localized in the upper lumbar segments of the spinal cord, is responsible for producing the fundamental neural commands underlying basic locomotion. Albeit CPG expresses a rhythmic activity even in the absence of supraspinal and peripheral input, sensory stimulation facilitates the expression of locomotion, permits to adapt locomotion to the environment and promotes plasticity in spinal circuits both during development and after injury. Several neurotransmitters and neuromodulators are known to stimulate and modulate synaptic spinal locomotor function. Recently, epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord also proved to facilitate recovery of volitional motor control after injury.



- Basic structure of locomotion: biomechanical basis and neural organization.

- The conceptual cores of automaticity of movement.

- In vivo and in vitro electrophysiological techniques to record the activity of spinal neuronal circuits.

- Sensory afferent control of locomotion.

- Activity-dependent plasticity.

- Pharmacological modulation of locomotion.

- Electrostimulation facilitates locomotion.

- Pharmacological synergism of electrically-induced locomotor patterns.


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