Relating reflex gain modulation in posture control to underlying neural network properties using a neuromusculoskeletal model

Jasper Schuurmans*, Frans C.T. van der Helm, Alfred C. Schouten

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    65 Downloads (Pure)


    During posture control, reflexive feedback allows humans to efficiently compensate for unpredictable mechanical disturbances. Although reflexes are involuntary, humans can adapt their reflexive settings to the characteristics of the disturbances. Reflex modulation is commonly studied by determining reflex gains: a set of parameters that quantify the contributions of Ia, Ib and II afferents to mechanical joint behavior. Many mechanisms, like presynaptic inhibition and fusimotor drive, can account for reflex gain modulations. The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of underlying neural and sensory mechanisms on mechanical joint behavior. A neuromusculoskeletal model was built, in which a pair of muscles actuated a limb, while being controlled by a model of 2,298 spiking neurons in six pairs of spinal populations. Identical to experiments, the endpoint of the limb was disturbed with force perturbations. System identification was used to quantify the control behavior with reflex gains. A sensitivity analysis was then performed on the neuromusculoskeletal model, determining the influence of the neural, sensory and synaptic parameters on the joint dynamics. The results showed that the lumped reflex gains positively correlate to their most direct neural substrates: the velocity gain with Ia afferent velocity feedback, the positional gain with muscle stretch over II afferents and the force feedback gain with Ib afferent feedback. However, position feedback and force feedback gains show strong interactions with other neural and sensory properties. These results give important insights in the effects of neural properties on joint dynamics and in the identifiability of reflex gains in experiments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)555-565
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of computational neuroscience
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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