Integration of sensory, spinal, and volitional descending inputs in regulation of human locomotion

Yury Gerasimenko, Parag Gad, Dimitry Sayenko, Zach McKinney, Ruslan Gorodnichev, Aleksandr Puhov, Tatiana Moshonkina, Aleksandr Savochin, Victor Selionov, Tatiana Shigueva, Elena Tomilovskaya, Inessa Kozlovskaya, V. Reggie Edgerton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We reported previously that both transcutaneous electrical spinal cord stimulation and direct pressure stimulation of the plantar surfaces of the feet can elicit rhythmic involuntary step-like movements in noninjured subjects with their legs in a gravity-neutral apparatus. The present experiments investigated the convergence of spinal and plantar pressure stimulation and voluntary effort in the activation of locomotor movements in uninjured subjects under full body weight support in a vertical position. For all conditions, leg movements were analyzed using electromyographic (EMG) recordings and optical motion capture of joint kinematics. Spinal cord stimulation elicited rhythmic hip and knee flexion movements accompanied by EMG bursting activity in the hamstrings of 6/6 subjects. Similarly, plantar stimulation induced bursting EMG activity in the ankle flexor and extensor muscles in 5/6 subjects. Moreover, the combination of spinal and plantar stimulation exhibited a synergistic effect in all six subjects, eliciting greater motor responses than either modality alone. While the motor responses to spinal vs. plantar stimulation seems to activate distinct but overlapping spinal neural networks, when engaged simultaneously, the stepping responses were functionally complementary. As observed during induced (involuntary) stepping, the most significant modulation of voluntary stepping occurred in response to the combination of spinal and plantar stimulation. In light of the known automaticity and plasticity of spinal networks in absence of supraspinal input, these findings support the hypothesis that spinal and plantar stimulation may be effective tools for enhancing the recovery of motor control in individuals with neurological injuries and disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-105
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Central pattern generator
  • Sensory stimulation of sole
  • Spinal cord locomotion
  • Spinal cord stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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