skip to main content

Attention:

The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, May 23 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, May 24 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Russo, Marta"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. Humans are strikingly adept at manipulating complex objects, from tying shoelaces to cracking a bullwhip. These motor skills have highly nonlinear interactive dynamics that defy reduction into parts. Yet, despite advances in data recording and processing, experiments in motor neuroscience still prioritize experimental reduction over realistic complexity. This study embraced the fully unconstrained behaviour of hitting a target with a 1.6-m bullwhip, both in rhythmic and discrete fashion. Adopting an object-centered approach to test the hypothesis that skilled movement simplifies the whip dynamics, the whip's evolution was characterized in relation to performance error and hand speed. Despite widely differing individual strategies, both discrete and rhythmic styles featured a cascade-like unfolding of the whip. Whip extension and orientation at peak hand speed predicted performance error, at least in the rhythmic style, suggesting that humans accomplished the task by setting initial conditions. These insights may inform further studies on human and robot control of complex objects. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Background

    Numerous studies showed that postural balance improves through light touch on a stable surface highlighting the importance of haptic information, seemingly downplaying the mechanical contributions of the support. The present study examined the mechanical effects of canes for assisting balance in healthy individuals challenged by standing on a beam.

    Methods

    Sixteen participants supported themselves with two canes, one in each hand, and applied minimal, preferred, or maximum force onto the canes. They positioned the canes in the frontal plane or in a tripod configuration. Statistical analysis used a linear mixed model to evaluate the effects on the center of pressure and the center of mass.

    Results

    The canes significantly reduced the variability of the center of pressure and the center of mass to the same level as when standing on the ground. Increasing the exerted force beyond the preferred level yielded no further benefits, although in the preferred force condition, participants exploited the altered mechanics by resting their arms on the canes. The tripod configuration allowed for larger variability of the center of pressure in the task-irrelevant anterior–posterior dimension. High forces had a destabilizing effect on the canes: the displacement of the hand on the cane handle increased with the force.

    Conclusions

    Given this static instability, these results show that using canes can provide not only mechanical benefits but also challenges. From a control perspective, effort can be reduced by resting the arms on the canes and by channeling noise in the task-irrelevant dimensions. However, larger forces exerted onto the canes can also have destabilizing effects and the instability of the canes needs to be counteracted, possibly by arm and shoulder stiffness. Insights into the variety of mechanical effects is important for the design of canes and the instructions of how to use them.

     
    more » « less
  4. 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 model 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.

     
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
  6. null (Ed.)