An adaptive gain control system of a proprioceptive feedback system, the femur­tibia control loop, is investigated. It enables the joint control loop to work with a high gain but it prevents instability oscillations. In the inactive stick insect, the realisation of specific changes in gain is described for tibial torque, for extensor tibiae muscle force and for motoneuronal activity. In open-loop experiments, sinusoidal stimuli are applied to the femoral chordotonal organ (fCO). Changes in gain that depend on fCO stimulus parameters (such as amplitude, frequency and repetition rate), are investigated. Furthermore, spontaneous and touch-induced changes in gain that resemble the behavioural state of the animal are described. Changes in gain in motoneurones are always realised as changes in the amplitude of modulation of their discharge frequency. Nevertheless, depending on the stimulus situation, two different mechanisms underlie gain changes in motoneurones. (i) Changes in gain can be based on changes in the strength of the sensorimotor pathways that transmit stimulus-modulated information from the fCO to the motoneurones. (ii) Changes in gain can be based on changes in the mean activity of a motoneurone by means of its spike threshold: when, during the modulation, the discharge of a motoneurone is inhibited for part of the stimulus cycle, then a change in mean activity subsequently causes a change in modulation amplitude and gain. A new neuronal mechanism is described that helps to compensate the low-pass filter characteristics of the muscles by an increased activation, especially by a sharper distribution of spikes in the stimulus cycle at high fCO stimulus frequencies.

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