Neural mechanisms of locomotor adaptation

Locomotor patterns are constantly adapted for changing environments but the neural mechanisms underlying this basic form of learning are not well understood. Locomotor adaptation has been studied in humans using a motorized split-belt treadmill in which the limbs on opposite sides of the body move at different speeds. Subjects adapt to split-belt walking over time by changing spatial and temporal gait parameters, which show negative after- effects in post- adaptation. This type of motor learning is thought to involve the cerebellum, as previous studies have indicated that patients with cerebellar lesions cannot adapt to the perturbation (Morton & Bastian, 2006). However, the circuit mechanisms within the cerebellum that support this adaptation are not known. We have built a split-belt treadmill for mice and are using it in combination with genetic and electrophysiological tools to investigate the neural basis of locomotor adaptation.

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