Existing models of human walking use low-level reflexes or neural oscillators to generate movement. While appropriate to generate the stable, rhythmic movement patterns of steady-state walking, these models lack the ability to change their movement patterns or spontaneously generate new movements in the specific, goal-directed way characteristic of voluntary movements. Here we present a neuromuscular model of human locomotion that bridges this gap and combines the ability to execute goal directed movements with the generation of stable, rhythmic movement patterns that are required for robust locomotion. The model represents goals for voluntary movements of the swing leg on the task level of swing leg joint kinematics. Smooth movements plans towards the goal configuration are generated on the task level and transformed into descending motor commands that execute the planned movements, using internal models. The movement goals and plans are updated in real time based on sensory feedback and task constraints. On the spinal level, the descending commands during the swing phase are integrated with a generic stretch reflex for each muscle. Stance leg control solely relies on dedicated spinal reflex pathways. Spinal reflexes stimulate Hill-type muscles that actuate a biomechanical model with eight internal joints and six free-body degrees more »
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High-level motor planning allows flexible walking at different gait patterns in a neuromechanical modelHumans can freely adopt gait parameters like walking speed, step length, or cadence on the fly when walking. Planned movement that can be updated online to account for changes in the environment rather than having to rely on habitual, reflexive control that is adapted over long timescales. Here we present a neuromechanical model that accounts for this flexibility by combining movement goals and motor plans on a kinematic task level with low-level spinal feedback loops. We show that the model can walk at a wide range of different gait patterns by choosing a small number of high-level control parameters representing a movement goal. A larger number of parameters governing the low-level reflex loops in the spinal cord, on the other hand, remain fixed. We also show that the model can generalize the learned behavior by recombining the high-level control parameters and walk with gait patterns that it had not encountered before. Furthermore, the model can transition between different gaits without the loss of balance by switching to a new set of control parameters in real time.
Many control methods have been proposed for powered prosthetic legs, ranging from finite state machines that switch between discrete phases of gait to unified controllers that have a continuous sense of phase. In particular, recent work has shown that a mechanical phase variable can parameterize the entire gait cycle for controlling a prosthetic leg during steady rhythmic locomotion. However, the unified approach does not provide voluntary control over non-rhythmic motions like stepping forward and back. In this paper we present a phasing algorithm that uses the amputee’s hip angle to control both rhythmic and non-rhythmic motion through two modes: 1) a piecewise (PW) function that provides users voluntary control over stance and swing in a piecewise manner, and 2) a unified function that continuously synchronizes the motion of the prosthetic leg with the amputee user at different walking speeds. The two phase variable approaches are compared in experiments with a powered knee-ankle prosthesis used by an above-knee amputee subject.
Abstract Insects are highly capable walkers, but many questions remain regarding how the insect nervous system controls locomotion. One particular question is how information is communicated between the ‘lower level’ ventral nerve cord (VNC) and the ‘higher level’ head ganglia to facilitate control. In this work, we seek to explore this question by investigating how systems traditionally described as ‘positive feedback’ may initiate and maintain stepping in the VNC with limited information exchanged between lower and higher level centers. We focus on the ‘reflex reversal’ of the stick insect femur-tibia joint between a resistance reflex (RR) and an active reaction in response to joint flexion, as well as the activation of populations of descending dorsal median unpaired (desDUM) neurons from limb strain as our primary reflex loops. We present the development of a neuromechanical model of the stick insect ( Carausius morosus ) femur-tibia (FTi) and coxa-trochanter joint control networks ‘in-the-loop’ with a physical robotic limb. The control network generates motor commands for the robotic limb, whose motion and forces generate sensory feedback for the network. We based our network architecture on the anatomy of the non-spiking interneuron joint control network that controls the FTi joint, extrapolated network connectivity based on known muscle responses,more »
This study examined how humans spontaneously merge a sequence of discrete actions into a rhythmic pattern, even when periodicity is not required. Two experiments used a virtual throwing task, in which subjects performed a long sequence of discrete throwing movements, aiming to hit a virtual target. In experiment 1, subjects performed the task for 11 sessions. Although there was no instruction to perform rhythmically, the variability of the interthrow intervals decreased to a level comparable to that of synchronizing with a metronome; furthermore, dwell times shortened or even disappeared with practice. Floquet multipliers and decreasing variability of the arm trajectories estimated in state space indicated an increasing degree of dynamic stability. Subjects who achieved a higher level of periodicity and stability also displayed higher accuracy in the throwing task. To directly test whether rhythmicity affected performance, experiment 2 disrupted the evolving continuity and periodicity by enforcing a pause between successive throws. This discrete group performed significantly worse and with higher variability in their arm trajectories than the self-paced group. These findings are discussed in the context of previous neuroimaging results showing that rhythmic movements involve significantly fewer cortical and subcortical activations than discrete movements and therefore may pose a computationallymore »
Functional Resistance Training to Improve Knee Strength and Function After Acute Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Case Study
Thigh muscle weakness after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) can persist after returning to activity. While resistance training can improve muscle function, “nonfunctional” training methods are not optimal for inducing transfer of benefits to activities such as walking. Here, we tested the feasibility of a novel functional resistance training (FRT) approach to restore strength and function in an individual with ACLR.
FRT would improve knee strength and function after ACLR.
Level of Evidence:
A 15-year-old male patient volunteered for an 8-week intervention where he performed 30 minutes of treadmill walking, 3 times per week, while wearing a custom-designed knee brace that provided resistance to the thigh muscles of his ACLR leg. Thigh strength, gait mechanics, and corticospinal and spinal excitability were assessed before and immediately after the 8-week intervention. Voluntary muscle activation was evaluated immediately after the intervention.
Knee extensor and flexor strength increased in the ACLR leg from pre- to posttraining (130 to 225 N·m [+74%] and 44 to 88 N·m [+99%], respectively) and increases in between-limb extensor and flexor strength symmetry (45% to 92% [+74%] and 47% to 72% [+65%], respectively) were also noted. After the intervention, voluntary muscle activation in the ACLR legmore »
A full 8 weeks of FRT that targeted both quadriceps and hamstring muscles lead to improvements in strength and gait, suggesting that FRT may constitute a promising and practical alternative to traditional methods of resistance training.
FRT may serve as a viable approach to improve knee strength and function after ACL reconstruction.