Babies, rats share walking ancestry
November 17th, 2011
04:15 PM ET

Babies, rats share walking ancestry

Children typically start walking independently when they are about 1 year old. But scientists say that even healthy newborns have the capacity to start stepping and have a pattern of neural activity similar to that of other animals.

Research published in the journal Science suggests that baby humans, rats, cats, macaque and guinea fowl all share similar neural mechanisms for locomotion. Human adults, on the other hand, have a distinct pattern of signals, which is derived from the basics seen in babies.

"We have a common history ... a common ancestral network, which originated locomotion in the first animals, the first vertebrates," said study co-author Francesco Lacquaniti, scientist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy.

"Mother nature did not discard what it had. It does not scrap hardware," he added. "Indeed, the adult locomotion of adults is unique. But it seems to derives from common ancestry, as for the other animals."

Researchers looked at healthy babies between 2 and 7 days old. They used an electromyograph to monitor the electrical activity of the babies' muscles. Then, a pediatrician lifted the child and lowered him or her on the table. As soon as the baby's feet touched the table, he or she would start stepping.

Motor neurons, which send signals to muscles, have the basic commands ready in a newborn baby. But only half the circuitry for walking is ready at birth, Lacquaniti said. In fact, the stepping reflex disappears a few weeks after birth. It then reappears as intentional walking at about 10 months, the time it takes for the nervous system to mature and develop the signals missing at birth.

Lacquaniti and colleagues also looked at toddlers, older children and adults and saw how the patterns of the infants get modified and adapted as a child ages. In adult walking, the pulses of activity are shorter than in babies, which is useful for the older folks because less energy is spent.

"This is why babies start walking at 1 year of age, but they wobble," Lacquaniti said. "It takes several more years to then fine-tune and develop adult-like commands, which are much briefer."

Researchers wanted to see how this process of the development of locomotion compares to that of other animals. They looked at rats, cats, macaque and guinea fowl and found similar patterns of neural activity as in newborn human babies.

A 2-year-old human child is smarter than an adult monkey, but the two have comparable locomotive abilities, Lacquaniti said. Separate research has shown that the bigger the animal's brain, the longer the time after fertilization required to develop independent locomotion.

This does not mean humans walk better than other animals. In fact, there are significant costs associated with moving with two legs instead of four: for instance, greater instability and back pain because we have to sustain the weight of our bodies.

There are clinical implications to all this. Understanding the neural mechanisms of walking can help with developing rehabilitation tools for people who are paralyzed and cannot walk.

"If one knows the exact shape of the neural commands, one hopes to use similar commands in prosthetic limbs, retrain the paralyzed patient to relearn to walk, so to speak," Lacquaniti said.

soundoff (558 Responses)
  1. Rv Repair Shop


    June 12, 2021 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Service Locations

    I absolutely love your blog.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this web site yourself? Please reply back as Iím attempting to create my own website and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Cheers!


    June 12, 2021 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. auto paint supply orange county ca

    Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is useful. Thank you for sharing!


    June 12, 2021 at 02:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Motorhome Repair Shops Near Me

    Excellent article. I am experiencing a few of these issues as well..


    June 12, 2021 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. rv repair shops near my location

    Aw, this was a very good post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a superb articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.


    June 12, 2021 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. lawyers near me


    June 12, 2021 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. flower shops near me

    I couldnít resist commenting. Very well written!


    June 12, 2021 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. convenience store near me

    Howdy! This article couldnít be written any better! Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I'll forward this post to him. Pretty sure he'll have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!


    June 12, 2021 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. vitamin shoppe near me


    June 12, 2021 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. harbor freight near me


    June 12, 2021 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ashley furniture near me

    You made some good points there. I checked on the web for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.


    June 13, 2021 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ymca near me


    June 13, 2021 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. puppies for sale near me

    This is the right web site for anybody who would like to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that has been written about for many years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    June 13, 2021 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. salons near me


    June 13, 2021 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. warehouse jobs near me

    This is the right webpage for anybody who hopes to find out about this topic. You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that has been written about for decades. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!


    June 13, 2021 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. canes near me

    After I originally commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!


    June 13, 2021 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. fedex office near me


    June 13, 2021 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. junkyards near me


    June 13, 2021 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. auto repair near me


    June 13, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. boats for sale near me


    June 14, 2021 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. theaters near me


    June 14, 2021 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. sporting goods near me


    June 14, 2021 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. food near me open now


    June 14, 2021 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. milf cam

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this
    post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble.
    You're amazing! Thanks!

    June 14, 2021 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Duncan Cameli

    Love this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSV-c9dh7VM


    June 14, 2021 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. tool rental near me

    When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    June 14, 2021 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. pet stores near me

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I believe that you should write more about this issue, it may not be a taboo subject but generally folks don't talk about these issues. To the next! All the best!!


    June 14, 2021 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. marijuana dispensary near me

    When I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!


    June 14, 2021 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. binance commissie

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about brain. Regards

    June 14, 2021 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now


    June 14, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair Fountain Valley


    June 15, 2021 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repairs Near Me

    I blog often and I really thank you for your content. The article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.


    June 15, 2021 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    Itís difficult to find experienced people in this particular topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 15, 2021 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repair Near Me Now


    June 15, 2021 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Camper Repairs Near Me

    You have made some really good points there. I looked on the web for more info about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    June 15, 2021 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repair Shop


    June 15, 2021 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    I used to be able to find good advice from your blog posts.


    June 15, 2021 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Repair

    Can I simply say what a comfort to uncover someone that really understands what they are discussing on the net. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people have to read this and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you aren't more popular given that you surely have the gift.


    June 16, 2021 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Repair Shop Near My Location


    June 16, 2021 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Repair

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me dinner simply because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this topic here on your site.


    June 16, 2021 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Nearby RV Repair


    June 16, 2021 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. printers near me


    June 16, 2021 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. spectrum store near me

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me dinner due to the fact that I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this matter here on your web page.


    June 16, 2021 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. guitar center near me

    Hello! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím certainly happy I came across it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


    June 17, 2021 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Nearby RV Repair

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your information. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I will take a note of your website and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    June 17, 2021 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. health food store near me


    June 17, 2021 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Nearby RV Repair

    I quite like looking through an article that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!


    June 17, 2021 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. hotels near me

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful article. Thank you for supplying this info.


    June 17, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. emergency vet near me

    Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this site.


    June 17, 2021 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Leave a Reply to RV Repair Santa Ana


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.