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  1. MJ Grey

Published Online: 15 SEP 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000163.pub2



How to Cite

Grey, M. 2010. Locomotion. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2010


Locomotion is an animal's ability to move itself from place to place. Locomotion requires the movements of the body or specialised parts of the body to generate propulsive forces on land, water or air. Muscles produce these forces in multicellular organisms. Muscle specialisation, mechanics and skeletal form combine to establish the speed, efficiency and endurance of locomotion. Most locomotor movements involve the rhythmic, co-ordinated contractions of numerous muscles with the basic motor pattern provided by networks of neurons called central pattern generators (CPGs). In vertebrates, the integration of sensory information into CPGs occurs primarily within the spinal cord. However, the supraspinal integration of sensory information is more important in humans. Effective locomotion also requires the correct orientation of the body with respect to the environment, and this is particularly important in humans.

Key Concepts:

  • The type of motor unit used in locomotion is dependent on the speed of locomotion.

  • Specific muscle forces produced during locomotion are almost independent of body size.

  • Energy is stored and released by tendons.

  • Central pattern generators produce the rhythmic alternation flexion/extension bursts of muscle activity associated with locomotion.

  • Afferent feedback reinforces the locomotor muscle activity and controls the phase transition from stance to swing.

  • Locomotion is initiated by command neurons located in the brain stem and lateral hypothalamus.

  • Information from the somatosensory, vestibular and visual systems is used to provide stability for bipedal human walking.

  • Many of the concepts about the control of locomotion derived from animal studies apply to humans; however, human walking requires greater supraspinal control than that for other animals.


  • walking;
  • proprioceptors;
  • motor control;
  • muscle;
  • biomechanics