Cats actively respond to horizontal perturbations of the supporting surface according to the force constraint strategy. In this strategy, the force responses fall into two groups oriented in either rostral and medial directions or caudal and lateral directions, rather than in strict opposition to the direction of perturbation. When the distance between forelimbs and hindlimbs is decreased, the responses are less constrained and directed more in line with the perturbation. We have recently shown that electromyographic responses from limb muscles of the decerebrate cat resemble those obtained in the intact animal. Our objectives here were to determine whether the decerebrate cat preparation would also exhibit the force constraint strategy and whether that strategy would exhibit the characteristic dependence on limb position on the strategy. Horizontal support surface perturbations were delivered and three-dimensional exerted forces were recorded from all four limbs. Clustered force responses were generated by all four limbs and were found to be statistically indistinguishable between animals decerebrated using two different levels of transection. The directionality of the force responses was preserved throughout successive time epochs during the perturbations. In addition, the clustering of force responses increased with distance between forelimbs and hindlimbs. These results indicate that the force constraint strategy used by terrestrial animals to maintain stability can be generated without the assistance of the cerebral cortices and without prior training. This suggests an important role for the lower brain stem and spinal cord in generating an appropriate strategy to maintain stability.
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