Recent studies of in vivo muscle function in guinea fowl revealed that distal leg muscles rapidly modulate force and work to stabilize running in uneven terrain. Previous studies focused on running only, and it remains unclear how muscular mechanisms for stability differ between walking and running. Here, we investigated in vivo function of the lateral gastrocnemius (LG) during walking over obstacles. We compared muscle function in birds with intact (iLG) versus self-reinnervated LG (rLG). Self-reinnervation results in proprioceptive feedback deficit due to loss of monosynaptic stretch reflex. We tested the hypothesis that proprioceptive deficit results in decreased modulation of EMG activity in response to obstacle contact, and a delayed obstacle recovery compared with that for iLG. We found that total myoelectric intensity (Etot) of iLG increased by 68% in obstacle strides (S 0) compared with level terrain, suggesting a substantial reflex-mediated response. In contrast, Etot of rLG increased by 31% in S 0 strides compared with level walking, but also increased by 43% in the first post-obstacle (S +1) stride. In iLG, muscle force and work differed significantly from level walking only in the S 0 stride, indicating a single-stride recovery. In rLG, force increased in S 0, S +1 and S +2 compared with level walking, indicating three-stride obstacle recovery. Interestingly, rLG showed little variation in work output and shortening velocity in obstacle terrain, indicating a shift towards near-isometric strut-like function. Reinnervated birds also adopted a more crouched posture across level and obstacle terrains compared with intact birds. These findings suggest gait-specific control mechanisms in walking and running.

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