Optimal posture control of a musculo-skeletal arm model

Alfred C. Schouten*, Erwin de Vlugt, Frans C.T. van der Helm, Guido G. Brouwn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper maximal performance posture control of the human arm is investigated by means of model simulations. Recent experiments (F.C.T. van der Helm, submitted, 2000) have shown that the reflexive feedback during postural control varies with the bandwidth of the applied force disturbances. This paper focusses on the influence of the frequency content of force disturbances on the reflexive feedback gains by means of optimization. The arm is modelled by a non-linear musculo-skeletal model with two degrees of freedom and six muscles. To facilitate the optimization of the model parameters, the arm model is linearized. A performance criterion is minimized for stochastic force disturbances in a two-step procedure: (1) optimization of static muscle activations using an additional energy criterion to obtain a unique and energy-efficient solution; and (2) optimization of reflex gains using an additional control effort criterion to obtain a unique solution. The optimization reveals that for the given task and posture, the shoulder muscles have the largest contribution, whereas the bi-articular muscles have a relatively small contribution to the behaviour. The dynamics at the endpoint level are estimated so that a comparison can be made with the experiments. Compared to the experiments, the intrinsic damping of the model is relatively large (about 150%), whereas the intrinsic stiffness is relatively small (about 60%). These differences can be attributed to unmodelled mechanical effects of cross-bridges in Hill-type muscle models. The optimized reflex gains show remarkable similarities with the values found in the experiments, implying that humans can adjust their reflexive feedback gains in an optimal way, weighting the performance and energy. The approach in this paper could be useful in the study of various posture tasks, for example in the prediction of the relation between the control parameters of various musculo-skeletal models and different experimental variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-152
Number of pages10
JournalBiological cybernetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes


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