When quadrupeds stop walking after stepping over a barrier with their forelegs, the memory of barrier height and location is retained for many minutes. This memory is subsequently used to guide hind leg movements over the barrier when walking is resumed. The upslope of the initial trajectory of hind leg paw movements is strongly dependent on the initial location of the paw relative to the barrier. In this study, we have attempted to determine whether mechanical factors contribute significantly in establishing the slope of the paw trajectories by creating a 4-link biomechanical model of a cat hind leg and driving this model with a variety of joint-torque profiles, including average torques for a range on initial paw positions relative to the barrier. Torque profiles for individual steps were determined by an inverse dynamic analysis of leg movements in three normal cats. Our study demonstrates that limb mechanics can contribute to establishing the dependency of trajectory slope on the initial position of the paw relative to the barrier. However, an additional contribution of neuronal motor commands was indicated by the fact that the simulated slopes of paw trajectories were significantly less that the observed slopes. A neuronal contribution to the modification of paw trajectories was also revealed by our observations that both the magnitudes of knee flexor muscle EMG bursts and the initial knee flexion torques depended on initial paw position. Previous studies have shown that a shift in paw position prior to stepping over a barrier changes the paw trajectory to be appropriate for the new paw position. Our data indicate that both mechanical and neuronal factors contribute to this updating process, and that any shift in leg position during the delay period modifies the working memory of barrier location
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