Unifying system identification and biomechanical formulations for the estimation of muscle, tendon and joint stiffness during human movement

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Abstract

In vivo joint stiffness estimation during time-varying conditions remains an open challenge. Multiple communities, e.g. system identification and biomechanics, have tackled the problem from different perspectives and using different methods, each of which entailing advantages and limitations, often complementary. System identification formulations provide data-driven estimates of stiffness at the joint level, while biomechanics often relies on musculoskeletal models to estimate stiffness at multiple levels, i.e. joint, muscle, and tendon. Collaboration across these two scientific communities seems to be a logical step toward a reliable multi-level understanding of joint stiffness. However, differences at the theoretical, computational, and experimental levels have limited inter-community interaction. In this article we present a roadmap to achieve a unified framework for the estimation of time-varying stiffness in the composite human neuromusculoskeletal system during movement. We present our perspective on future developments to obtain data-driven system identification and musculoskeletal models that are compatible at the theoretical, computational, and experimental levels. Moreover, we propose a novel combined closed-loop paradigm, in which reference estimates of joint stiffness via system identification are decomposed into underlying muscle and tendon contribution via high-density-electromyography-driven musculoskeletal modeling. We highlight the need for aligning experimental requirements to be able to compare both joint stiffness formulations. Unifying both biomechanics' and system identification's formulations is a necessary step for truly generalizing stiffness estimation across individuals, movement conditions, training and impairment levels. From an application point of view, this is central for enabling patient-specific neurorehabilitation therapies, as well as biomimetic control of assistive robotic technologies. The roadmap we propose could serve as an inspiration for future collaborations across broadly different scientific communities to truly understand joint stiffness bio- and neuromechanics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number033002
JournalProgress in Biomedical Engineering
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2021

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