The sensory and neural mechanisms underlying postural control have received much attention in recent decades but remain poorly understood. Our objectives were 1) to establish the decerebrate cat as an appropriate model for further research into the sensory mechanisms of postural control and 2) to observe what elements of the postural response can be generated by the brain stem and spinal cord. Ten animals were decerebrated using a modified premammillary technique, which consists of a premammillary decerebration that is modified with a vertical transection near the subthalamic nucleus to eliminate spontaneous locomotion. Horizontal support surface perturbations were applied to all four limbs and electromyographic recordings were collected from 14 muscles of the right hindlimb. Muscle activation was quantified with tuning curves, which compared increases and decreases in muscle activity to background and graphed the difference against perturbation direction. Parallels were drawn between these tuning curves, which were further quantified with a principal direction and breadth (range of directions of muscle activation), and data collected by other researchers from the intact animal. We found a strong similarity in the direction and breadth of the tuning curves generated in the decerebrate and intact cat. These results support our hypothesis that directionally specific tuning of muscles in response to support surface perturbations does not require the cortex, further indicating a strong role for the brain stem and spinal cord circuits in mediating directionally appropriate muscle activation patterns.
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