Neural circuitry in the lumbar spinal cord governs two principal features of locomotion, rhythm and pattern, which reflect intra- and interlimb movement. These features are functionally organized into a hierarchy that precisely controls stepping in a stereotypic, speed-dependent fashion. Here, we show that a specific component of the locomotor pattern can be independently manipulated. Silencing spinal L2 interneurons that project to L5 selectively disrupts hindlimb alternation allowing a continuum of walking to hopping to emerge from the otherwise intact network. This perturbation, which is independent of speed and occurs spontaneously with each step, does not disrupt multi-joint movements or forelimb alternation, nor does it translate to a non-weight-bearing locomotor activity. Both the underlying rhythm and the usual relationship between speed and spatiotemporal characteristics of stepping persist. These data illustrate that hindlimb alternation can be manipulated independently from other core features of stepping, revealing a striking freedom in an otherwise precisely controlled system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)