Physiological Reviews

Load-Regulating Mechanisms in Gait and Posture: Comparative Aspects

J. Duysens, F. Clarac, H. Cruse


How is load sensed by receptors, and how is this sensory information used to guide locomotion? Many insights in this domain have evolved from comparative studies since it has been realized that basic principles concerning load sensing and regulation can be found in a wide variety of animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate. Feedback about load is not only derived from specific load receptors but also from other types of receptors that previously were thought to have other functions. In the central nervous system of many species, a convergence is found between specific and nonspecific load receptors. Furthermore, feedback from load receptors onto central circuits involved in the generation of rhythmic locomotor output is commonly found. During the stance phase, afferent activity from various load detectors can activate the extensor part in such circuits, thereby providing reinforcing force feedback. At the same time, the flexion is suppressed. The functional role of this arrangement is that activity in antigravity muscles is promoted while the onset of the next flexion is delayed as long as the limb is loaded. This type of reinforcing force feedback is present during gait but absent in the immoble resting animal.


  • Address for reprints and other correspondence: J. Duysens, Laboratorium voor Medische Fysica en Biofysica, Geert Grooteplein N 21, 6525 EZ Nijmegen, The Netherlands (E-mail: admin{at}

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