Sunday 16 May 2021

Understanding how cats walk using robotics

Japanese scientists at Osaka University have built a cat robot to help understand how cats walk in terms of neurology. I'm going to use their words verbatim from their video which is published below.

The walking mechanism of quadrupeds is still a mystery. Some of the neural mechanisms that control cat walking were discovered in animal experiments in the twentieth century. At present, however, experiments on animals are strictly restricted, making it difficult to investigate the mechanisms of living, moving animals. 

To understand how quadrupeds walk efficiently and stably, we have developed a quadruped robot to substitute for experimental animals. This robot has adaptable and powerful motors, and can reproduce the neuro-muscular dynamics calculated by the computer. When we reproduce the reflex circuit of a cat in each leg, the walking motion emerges from the interaction between the robot and the environment. 

The robot can reproduce animal experiments conducted in the past. Moreover, the robot allows for experiments that are difficult in animals, such as sudden nerve amputation while walking. Using the robot to explore reflex circuits that produce a stable gate, we discovered a circuit that includes a structure called the "reciprocal excitatory reflex between hip-knee extensors". 

We showed that cutting the reciprocal circuit makes the walking unstable, and that the reciprocal circuit produces a phenomenon called "prolongation of stance phase" as in cats. The results suggest that the reciprocal excitatory circuit is an important candidate for the reflex circuit that controls cat walking. In the future, as more robots substitute experimental animals, more researchers may be able to investigate animal mechanisms under a variety of experimental conditions.

Comment: I love it because any science which helps to avoid animal testing is great science as far as I am concerned. Animal testing should be completely banned. There should be, and indeed there are, alternatives. This is one example. Please let there be more going forward.

Linked: Cat Gait. -- Direct register cat gait.

Note: videos on this site are typically made by people other than me and held on YouTube servers or the servers of other businesses (not the server storing this website). Sometimes the videos are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Screenshot from video.

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