Cats are no doubt one of the most graceful and athletic animals. Researchers from Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada have developed a computational model of hindlimb locomotion for a cat. Locomotion is controlled by central pattern generators, which are groups of motor neurons within the spinal cord that control coordinated movements like walking. A website showing this model in action can be viewed here.

Studying how cats walk may provide tools to improve the understanding of locomotion in other species. It may also help in the development of prosthetic limbs controlled by robotic central pattern generators. This video clip shows bipedal locomotion for a monkey. Another interesting application is the development of robots with realistic coordinated movements as seen here. Although I do not think we are quite ready to develop a robot as advanced as “Data” in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Source: SN Markin, AN Klishko, NA Shevtsova, MA Lemay, BI Prilutsky, DA McCrea, IA Rybak. “Modelling the CPG-based Control of Cat Hindlimb Movement During Locomotion.”