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  1. Abstract Background

    Maintaining upright posture is an unstable task that requires sophisticated neuro-muscular control. Humans use foot–ground interaction forces, characterized by point of application, magnitude, and direction to manage body accelerations. When analyzing the directions of the ground reaction forces of standing humans in the frequency domain, previous work found a consistent pattern in different frequency bands. To test whether this frequency-dependent behavior provided a distinctive signature of neural control or was a necessary consequence of biomechanics, this study simulated quiet standing and compared the results with human subject data.

    Methods

    Aiming to develop the simplest competent and neuromechanically justifiable dynamic modelmore »that could account for the pattern observed across multiple subjects, we first explored the minimum number of degrees of freedom required for the model. Then, we applied a well-established optimal control method that was parameterized to maximize physiologically-relevant insight to stabilize the balancing model.

    Results

    If a standing human was modeled as a single inverted pendulum, no controller could reproduce the experimentally observed pattern. The simplest competent model that approximated a standing human was a double inverted pendulum with torque-actuated ankle and hip joints. A range of controller parameters could stabilize this model and reproduce the general trend observed in experimental data; this result seems to indicate a biomechanical constraint and not a consequence of control. However, details of the frequency-dependent pattern varied substantially across tested control parameter values. The set of parameters that best reproduced the human experimental results suggests that the control strategy employed by human subjects to maintain quiet standing was best described by minimal control effort with an emphasis on ankle torque.

    Conclusions

    The findings suggest that the frequency-dependent pattern of ground reaction forces observed in quiet standing conveys quantitative information about human control strategies. This study’s method might be extended to investigate human neural control strategies in different contexts of balance, such as with an assistive device or in neurologically impaired subjects.

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