Insect locomotion requires the precise coordination of the movement of all six legs. Detailed investigations have revealed that the movement of the legs is controlled by local dedicated neuronal networks, which interact to produce walking of the animal. The stick insect is well suited to experimental investigations aimed at understanding the mechanisms of insect locomotion. Beside the experimental approach, models have also been constructed to elucidate those mechanisms. Here, we describe a model that replicates both the tetrapod and tripod coordination pattern of three ipsilateral legs. The model is based on an earlier insect leg model, which includes the three main leg joints, three antagonistic muscle pairs, and their local neuronal control networks. These networks are coupled via angular signals to establish intraleg coordination of the three neuromuscular systems during locomotion. In the present three-leg model, we coupled three such leg models, representing front, middle, and hind leg, in this way. The coupling was between the levator-depressor local control networks of the three legs. The model could successfully simulate tetrapod and tripod coordination patterns, as well as the transition between them. The simulations showed that for the interleg coordination during tripod, the position signals of the levator-depressor neuromuscular systems sent between the legs were sufficient, while in tetrapod, additional information on the angular velocities in the same system was necessary, and together with the position information also sufficient. We therefore suggest that, during stepping, the connections between the levator-depressor neuromuscular systems of the different legs are of primary importance.
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