Motor systems can adapt rapidly to changes in external conditions and to switching of internal goals. They can also adapt slowly in response to training, alterations in the mechanics of the system, and any changes in the system resulting from injury. This article reviews the mechanisms underlying short- and long-term adaptation in rhythmic motor systems. The neuronal networks underlying the generation of rhythmic motor patterns (central pattern generators; CPGs) are extremely flexible. Neuromodulators, central commands, and afferent signals all influence the pattern produced by a CPG by altering the cellular and synaptic properties of individual neurons and the coupling between different populations of neurons. This flexibility allows the generation of a variety of motor patterns appropriate for the mechanical requirements of different forms of a behavior. The matching of motor output to mechanical requirements depends on the capacity of pattern-generating networks to adapt to slow changes in body mechanics and persistent errors in performance. Afferent feedback from body and limb proprioceptors likely plays an important role in driving these long-term adaptive processes.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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