Here, we used an obstacle treadmill experiment to investigate the neuromuscular control of locomotion in uneven terrain. We measured in vivo function of two distal muscles of the guinea fowl, lateral gastrocnemius (LG) and digital flexor-IV (DF), during level running, and two uneven terrains, with 5 and 7 cm obstacles. Uneven terrain required one step onto an obstacle every four to five strides. We compared both perturbed and unperturbed strides in uneven terrain to level terrain. When the bird stepped onto an obstacle, the leg became crouched, both muscles acted at longer lengths and produced greater work, and body height increased. Muscle activation increased on obstacle strides in the LG, but not the DF, suggesting a greater reflex contribution to LG. In unperturbed strides in uneven terrain, swing pre-activation of DF increased by 5 per cent compared with level terrain, suggesting feed-forward tuning of leg impedance. Across conditions, the neuromechanical factors in work output differed between the two muscles, probably due to differences in muscle–tendon architecture. LG work depended primarily on fascicle length, whereas DF work depended on both length and velocity during loading. These distal muscles appear to play a critical role in stability by rapidly sensing and responding to altered leg–ground interaction.
locomotion; biomechanics; motor control
Fast-moving legged animals bounce along the ground with spring-like legs and agilely traverse variable terrain. Previous research has shown that hopping and running humans maintain the same bouncing movement of the body's centre of mass on a range of elastic surfaces by adjusting their spring-like legs to exactly offset changes in surface stiffness. This study investigated human hopping on damped surfaces that dissipated up to 72% of the hopper's mechanical energy. On these surfaces, the legs did not act like pure springs. Leg muscles performed up to 24-fold more net work to replace the energy lost by the damped surface. However, considering the leg and surface together, the combination appeared to behave like a constant stiffness spring on all damped surfaces. By conserving the mechanics of the leg-surface combination regardless of surface damping, hoppers also conserved centre-of-mass motions. Thus, the normal bouncing movements of the centre of mass in hopping are not always a direct result of spring-like leg behaviour. Conserving the trajectory of the centre of mass by maintaining spring-like mechanics of the leg-surface combination may be an important control strategy for fast-legged locomotion on variable terrain.
The strategies that humans use to control unsteady locomotion are not well understood. A “spring-mass” template comprised of a point mass bouncing on a sprung leg can approximate both center of mass movements and ground reaction forces during running in humans and other animals. Legged robots that operate as bouncing, “spring-mass” systems can maintain stable motion using relatively simple, distributed feedback rules. We tested whether the changes to sagittal-plane movements during five running tasks involving active changes to running height, speed, and orientation were consistent with the rules used by bouncing robots to maintain stability. Changes to running height were associated with changes to leg force but not stance duration. To change speed, humans primarily used a “pogo stick” strategy, where speed changes were associated with adjustments to fore-aft foot placement, and not a “unicycle” strategy involving systematic changes to stance leg hip moment. However, hip moments were related to changes to body orientation and angular speed. Hip moments could be described with first order proportional-derivative relationship to trunk pitch. Overall, the task-level strategies used for body control in humans were consistent with the strategies employed by bouncing robots. Identification of these behavioral strategies could lead to a better understanding of the sensorimotor mechanisms that allow for effective unsteady locomotion.
During bouncing gaits (running, hopping, trotting), passive compliant structures (e.g. tendons, ligaments) store and release part of the stride energy. Here, active muscles must provide the required force to withstand the developing tendon strain and to compensate for the inevitable energy losses. This requires an appropriate control of muscle activation. In this study, for hopping, the potential involvement of afferent information from muscle receptors (muscle spindles, Golgi tendon organs) is investigated using a two-segment leg model with one extensor muscle. It is found that: (i) positive feedbacks of muscle-fibre length and muscle force can result in periodic bouncing; (ii) positive force feedback (F+) stabilizes bouncing patterns within a large range of stride energies (maximum hopping height of 16.3 cm, almost twofold higher than the length feedback); and (iii) when employing this reflex scheme, for moderate hopping heights (up to 8.8 cm), an overall elastic leg behaviour is predicted (hopping frequency of 1.4-3 Hz, leg stiffness of 9-27 kN m(-1)). Furthermore, F+ could stabilize running. It is suggested that, during the stance phase of bouncing tasks, the reflex-generated motor control based on feedbacks might be an efficient and reliable alternative to central motor commands.
The basic mechanics of human locomotion are associated with vaulting over stiff legs in walking and rebounding on compliant legs in running. However, while rebounding legs well explain the stance dynamics of running, stiff legs cannot reproduce that of walking. With a simple bipedal spring–mass model, we show that not stiff but compliant legs are essential to obtain the basic walking mechanics; incorporating the double support as an essential part of the walking motion, the model reproduces the characteristic stance dynamics that result in the observed small vertical oscillation of the body and the observed out-of-phase changes in forward kinetic and gravitational potential energies. Exploring the parameter space of this model, we further show that it not only combines the basic dynamics of walking and running in one mechanical system, but also reveals these gaits to be just two out of the many solutions to legged locomotion offered by compliant leg behaviour and accessed by energy or speed.
biomechanics; human gait; spring–mass model
We currently know little about how animals achieve dynamic stability when running over uneven and unpredictable terrain, often characteristic of their natural environment. Here we investigate how limb and joint mechanics of an avian biped, the helmeted guinea fowl Numida meleagris, respond to an unexpected drop in terrain during running. In particular, we address how joint mechanics are coordinated to achieve whole limb dynamics. Based on muscle–tendon architecture and previous studies of steady and incline locomotion, we hypothesize a proximo-distal gradient in joint neuromechanical control. In this motor control strategy, (1) proximal muscles at the hip and knee joints are controlled primarily in a feedforward manner and exhibit load-insensitive mechanical performance, and (2) distal muscles at the ankle and tarsometatarso-phalangeal (TMP) joints are highly load-sensitive, due to intrinsic mechanical effects and rapid, higher gain proprioceptive feedback. Limb kinematics and kinetics during the unexpected perturbation reveal that limb retraction, controlled largely by the hip, remains similar to level running throughout the perturbed step, despite altered limb loading. Individual joints produce or absorb energy during both level and perturbed running steps, such that the net limb work depends on the balance of energy among the joints. The hip maintains the same mechanical role regardless of limb loading, whereas the ankle and TMP switch between spring-like or damping function depending on limb posture at ground contact. Initial knee angle sets limb posture and alters the balance of work among the joints, although the knee contributes little work itself. This distribution of joint function results in posture-dependent changes in work performance of the limb, which allow guinea fowl to rapidly produce or absorb energy in response to the perturbation. The results support the hypothesis that a proximo-distal gradient exists in limb neuromuscular performance and motor control. This control strategy allows limb cycling to remain constant, whereas limb posture, loading and energy performance are interdependent. We propose that this control strategy provides simple, rapid mechanisms for managing energy and controlling velocity when running over rough terrain.
running; locomotion; biomechanics; motor control; joint work; joint moment; inverse dynamics
A widely held assumption is that metabolic rate (Ėmet) during legged locomotion is linked to the mechanics of different gaits and this linkage helps explain the preferred speeds of animals in nature. However, despite several prominent exceptions, Ėmet of walking and running vertebrates has been nearly uniformly characterized as increasing linearly with speed across all gaits. This description of locomotor energetics does not predict energetically optimal speeds for minimal cost of transport (Ecot). We tested whether large bipedal ratite birds (emus and ostriches) have gait-specific energetics during walking and running similar to those found in humans. We found that during locomotion, emus showed a curvilinear relationship between Ėmet and speed during walking, and both emus and ostriches demonstrated an abrupt change in the slope of Ėmet versus speed at the gait transition with a linear increase during running. Similar to human locomotion, the minimum net Ecot calculated after subtracting resting metabolism was lower in walking than in running in both species. However, the difference in net Ecot between walking and running was less than is found in humans because of a greater change in the slope of Ėmet versus speed at the gait transition, which lowers the cost of running for the avian bipeds. For emus, we also show that animals moving freely overground avoid a range of speeds surrounding the gait-transition speed within which the Ecot is large. These data suggest that deviations from a linear relation of metabolic rate and speed and variations in transport costs with speed are more widespread than is often assumed, and provide new evidence that locomotor energetics influences the choice of speed in bipedal animals. The low cost of transport for walking is probably ecologically important for emus and ostriches because they spend the majority of their active day walking, and thus the energy used for locomotion is a large part of their daily energy budget.
gait; cost of transport; energetics; locomotion; preferred speeds
Walknet comprises an artificial neural network that allows for the simulation of a considerable amount of behavioral data obtained from walking and standing stick insects. It has been tested by kinematic and dynamic simulations as well as on a number of six-legged robots. Over the years, various different expansions of this network have been provided leading to different versions of Walknet. This review summarizes the most important biological findings described by Walknet and how they can be simulated. Walknet shows how a number of properties observed in insects may emerge from a decentralized architecture. Examples are the continuum of so-called “gaits,” coordination of up to 18 leg joints during stance when walking forward or backward over uneven surfaces and negotiation of curves, dealing with leg loss, as well as being able following motion trajectories without explicit precalculation. The different Walknet versions are compared to other approaches describing insect-inspired hexapod walking. Finally, we briefly address the ability of this decentralized reactive controller to form the basis for the simulation of higher-level cognitive faculties exceeding the capabilities of insects.
Insect locomotion; Motor control; Decentralized architecture
Humans can robustly locomote over complex terrains even while simultaneously attending to other tasks such as accurate foot placement on the ground. We investigated whether subjects would exploit motor redundancy across the joints of the leg to stabilize overall limb kinematics when presented with a hopping task that constrained foot placement position. Subjects hopped in place on one leg (2.2 Hz) while having to place their foot into one of three target sizes upon landing (0.250, 0.063, 0.010 m2). As takeoff and landing angles are critical to this task performance, we hypothesized smaller target sizes would increase the need to stabilize (i.e., make more consistent) the leg orientation through motor equivalent combinations of segment angles. As it was not critical to the targeting task, we hypothesized no changes for leg length stabilization across target size. With smaller target sizes, we saw total segment angle variance increase due to greater signal-dependent noise associated with an increased activation of leg extensor muscles (medial and lateral gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and rectus femoris). At smaller target sizes, more segment angle variance was aligned to kinematic deviations with the goal of maintaining leg orientation trajectory. We also observed a decrease in the variance structure for stabilizing leg length at the smallest target conditions. This trade-off effect is explained by the nearly orthogonal relationship between the two goal-equivalent manifolds for leg length vs. leg orientation stabilization. Our results suggest humans increasingly rely on kinematic redundancy in their legs to achieve robust, consistent locomotion when faced with novel conditions that constrain performance requirements. These principles may generalize to other human locomotor gaits and provide important insights into the control of the legs during human walking and running.
Manoeuverability is a key requirement for successful terrestrial locomotion, especially on variable terrain, and is a deciding factor in predator–prey interaction. Compared with straight-line running, bend running requires additional leg force to generate centripetal acceleration. In humans, this results in a reduction in maximum speed during bend running and a published model assuming maximum limb force as a constraint accurately predicts how much a sprinter must slow down on a bend given his maximum straight-line speed. In contrast, greyhounds do not slow down or change stride parameters during bend running, which suggests that their limbs can apply the additional force for this manoeuvre. We collected horizontal speed and angular velocity of heading of horses while they turned in different scenarios during competitive polo and horse racing. The data were used to evaluate the limits of turning performance. During high-speed turns of large radius horizontal speed was lower on the bend, as would be predicted from a model assuming a limb force limit to running speed. During small radius turns the angular velocity of heading decreased with increasing speed in a manner consistent with the coefficient of friction of the hoof–surface interaction setting the limit to centripetal force to avoid slipping.
manoeuvrability; friction limit; muscle force limit
Our previously developed locomotion-mode-recognition (LMR) system has provided a great promise to intuitive control of powered artificial legs. However, the lack of fast, practical training methods is a barrier for clinical use of our LMR system for prosthetic legs. This paper aims to design a new, automatic, and user-driven training method for practical use of LMR system. In this method, a wearable terrain detection interface based on a portable laser distance sensor and an inertial measurement unit (IMU) is applied to detect the terrain change in front of the prosthesis user. The mechanical measurement from the prosthetic pylon is used to detect gait phase. These two streams of information are used to automatically identify the transitions among various locomotion modes, switch the prosthesis control mode, and label the training data with movement class and gait phase in real-time. No external device is required in this training system. In addition, the prosthesis user without assistance from any other experts can do the whole training procedure. The pilot experimental results on an able-bodied subject have demonstrated that our developed new method is accurate and user-friendly, and can significantly simplify the LMR training system and training procedure without sacrificing the system performance. The novel design paves the way for clinical use of our designed LMR system for powered lower limb prosthesis control.
It has been argued that minimization of metabolic-energy costs is a primary determinant of gait selection in terrestrial animals. This view is based predominantly on data from humans and horses, which have been shown to choose the most economical gait (walking, running, galloping) for any given speed. It is not certain whether a minimization of metabolic costs is associated with the selection of other prevalent forms of terrestrial gaits, such as grounded running (a widespread gait in birds). Using biomechanical and metabolic measurements of four ostriches moving on a treadmill over a range of speeds from 0.8 to 6.7 m s(-1), we reveal here that the selection of walking or grounded running at intermediate speeds also favours a reduction in the metabolic cost of locomotion. This gait transition is characterized by a shift in locomotor kinetics from an inverted-pendulum gait to a bouncing gait that lacks an aerial phase. By contrast, when the ostrich adopts an aerial-running gait at faster speeds, there are no abrupt transitions in mechanical parameters or in the metabolic cost of locomotion. These data suggest a continuum between grounded and aerial running, indicating that they belong to the same locomotor paradigm.
This investigation was designed to analyze the time-trial (STT) in an international cross-country skiing sprint skating competition for (1) overall STT performance and relative contributions of time spent in different sections of terrain, (2) work rate and kinematics on uphill terrain, and (3) relationships to physiological and kinematic parameters while treadmill roller ski skating. Total time and times in nine different sections of terrain by 12 world-class male sprint skiers were determined, along with work rate and kinematics for one specific uphill section. In addition, peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), gross efficiency (GE), peak speed (Vpeak), and kinematics in skating were measured. Times on the last two uphill and two final flat sections were correlated to overall STT performance (r = ~−0.80, P < 0.001). For the selected uphill section, speed was correlated to cycle length (r = −0.75, P < 0.01) and the estimated work rate was approximately 160% of peak aerobic power. VO2peak, GE, Vpeak, and peak cycle length were all correlated to STT performance (r = ~−0.85, P < 0.001). More specifically, VO2peak and GE were correlated to the last two uphill and two final flat section times, whereas Vpeak and peak cycle length were correlated to times in all uphill, flat, and curved sections except for the initial section (r = ~−0.80, P < 0.01). Performances on uphill and flat terrain in the latter part were the most significant determinants of overall STT performance. Peak oxygen uptake, efficiency, peak speed, and peak cycle length were strongly correlated to overall STT performance, as well as to performance in different sections of the race.
Aerobic power; Anaerobic power; Cycle length; Efficiency; Speed; Work rate
Within the forest canopy, the shortest gaps between tree crowns lie between slender terminal branches. While the compliance of these supports has previously been shown to increase the energetic cost of gap crossing in arboreal animals (e.g. Alexander 1991 Z. Morphol. Anthropol. 78, 315–320; Demes et al. 1995 Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 96, 419–429), field observations suggest that some primates may be able to use support compliance to increase the energetic efficiency of locomotion. Here, we calculate the energetic cost of alternative methods of gap crossing in orangutans (Pongo abelii). Tree sway (in which orangutans oscillate a compliant tree trunk with increasing magnitude to bridge a gap) was found to be less than half as costly as jumping, and an order of magnitude less costly than descending the tree, walking to the vine and climbing it. Observations of wild orangutans suggest that they actually use support compliance in many aspects of their locomotor behaviour. This study seems to be the first to show that elastic compliance in arboreal supports can be used to reduce the energetic cost of gap crossing.
compliance; energy expenditure; locomotion; orangutan
Idealized models of walking and running demonstrate that, energetically, walking should be favoured up to, and even somewhat over, those speeds and step lengths that can be achieved while keeping the stance leg under compression. Around these speeds, and especially with relatively long step lengths, computer optimization predicts a third, ‘hybrid’, gait: (inverted) pendular running (Srinivasan & Ruina 2006 Nature 439, 72–75 (doi:10.1038/nature04113)). This gait involves both walking-like vaulting mechanics and running-like ballistic paths. Trajectories of horizontal versus vertical centre of mass velocities—‘hodographs’—over the step cycle are distinctive for each gait: anticlockwise for walk; clockwise for run; figure-of-eight for the hybrid gait. Both pheasants and guineafowl demonstrate each gait at close to the predicted speed/step length combinations, although fully aerial ballistic phases are never achieved during the hybrid or ‘Grounded Inverted Pendular Running’ gait.
walk; run; transition; GIPR
Animals’ ability to demonstrate both stereotyped and adaptive locomotor behavior is largely dependent on the interplay between centrally generated motor patterns and the sensory inputs that shape them. We utilized a combined experimental and theoretical approach to investigate the relative importance of CPG interconnections vs. intersegmental afferents in the cockroach: an animal that is renowned for rapid and stable locomotion. We simultaneously recorded coxal levator and depressor motor neurons (MN) in the thoracic ganglia of Periplaneta americana, while sensory feedback was completely blocked or allowed only from one intact stepping leg. In the absence of sensory feedback, we observed a coordination pattern with consistent phase relationship that shares similarities with a double-tripod gait, suggesting central, feedforward control. This intersegmental coordination pattern was then reinforced in the presence of sensory feedback from a single stepping leg. Specifically, we report on transient stabilization of phase differences between activity recorded in the middle and hind thoracic MN following individual front-leg steps, suggesting a role for afferent phasic information in the coordination of motor circuits at the different hemiganglia. Data were further analyzed using stochastic models of coupled oscillators and maximum likelihood techniques to estimate underlying physiological parameters, such as uncoupled endogenous frequencies of hemisegmental oscillators and coupling strengths and directions. We found that descending ipsilateral coupling is stronger than ascending coupling, while left–right coupling in both the meso- and meta-thoracic ganglia appear to be symmetrical. We discuss these results in comparison with recent findings in stick insects that share similar neural and body architectures, and argue that the two species may exemplify opposite extremes of a fast–slow locomotion continuum, mediated through different intersegment coordination strategies.
cockroach; locomotion; intersegmental coordination; central pattern generator; rostral–caudal asymmetry; maximum likelihood estimation
By integrating studies of muscle function with analysis of whole body and limb dynamics, broader appreciation of neuromuscular function can be achieved. Ultimately, such studies need to address non-steady locomotor behaviors relevant to animals in their natural environments. When animals move slowly they likely rely on voluntary coordination of movement involving higher brain centers. However, when moving fast, their movements depend more strongly on responses controlled at more local levels. Our focus here is on control of fast-running locomotion. A key observation emerging from studies of steady level locomotion is that simple spring-mass dynamics, which help to economize energy expenditure, also apply to stabilization of unsteady running. Spring-mass dynamics apply to conditions that involve lateral impulsive perturbations, sudden changes in terrain height, and sudden changes in substrate stiffness or damping. Experimental investigation of unsteady locomotion is challenging, however, due to the variability inherent in such behaviors. Another emerging principle is that initial conditions associated with postural changes following a perturbation define different context-dependent stabilization responses. Distinct stabilization modes following a perturbation likely result from proximo-distal differences in limb muscle architecture, function and control strategy. Proximal muscles may be less sensitive to sudden perturbations and appear to operate, in such circumstances, under feed-forward control. In contrast, multiarticular distal muscles operate, via their tendons, to distribute energy among limb joints in a manner that also depends on the initial conditions of limb contact with the ground. Intrinsic properties of these distal muscle–tendon elements, in combination with limb and body dynamics, appear to provide rapid initial stabilizing mechanisms that are often consistent with spring-mass dynamics. These intrinsic mechanisms likely help to simplify the neural control task, in addition to compensating for delays inherent to subsequent force- and length-dependent neural feedback. Future work will benefit from integrative biomechanical approaches that employ a combination of modeling and experimental techniques to understand how the elegant interplay of intrinsic muscle properties, body dynamics and neural control allows animals to achieve stability and agility over a variety of conditions.
EMG; force; muscle strain; spring-mass; work
A running animal coordinates the actions of many muscles, tendons, and ligaments in its leg so that the overall leg behaves like a single mechanical spring during ground contact. Experimental observations have revealed that an animal's leg stiffness is independent of both speed and gravity level, suggesting that it is dictated by inherent musculoskeletal properties. However, if leg stiffness was invariant, the biomechanics of running (e.g. peak ground reaction force and ground contact time) would change when an animal encountered different surfaces in the natural world. We found that human runners adjust their leg stiffness to accommodate changes in surface stiffness, allowing them to maintain similar running mechanics on different surfaces. These results provide important insight into mechanics and control of animal locomotion and suggest that incorporating an adjustable leg stiffness in the design of hopping and running robots is important if they are to match the agility and speed of animals on varied terrain.
A popular hypothesis regarding legged locomotion is that humans and other large animals walk and run in a manner that minimizes the metabolic energy expenditure for locomotion. Here, using numerical optimization and supporting analytical arguments, I obtain the energy-minimizing gaits of many different simple biped models. I consider bipeds with point-mass bodies and massless legs, with or without a knee, with or without a springy tendon in series with the leg muscle and minimizing one of many different ‘metabolic cost’ models—correlated with muscle work, muscle force raised to some power, the Minetti–Alexander quasi-steady approximation to empirical muscle metabolic rate (from heat and ATPase activity), a new cost function called the ‘generalized work cost’ Cg having some positivity and convexity properties (and includes the Minetti–Alexander cost and the work cost as special cases), and generalizations thereof. For many of these models, walking-like gaits are optimal at low speeds and running-like gaits at higher speeds, so a gait transition is optimal. Minimizing the generalized work cost Cg appears mostly indistinguishable from minimizing muscle work for all the models. Inverted pendulum walking and impulsive running gaits minimize the work cost, generalized work costs Cg and a few other costs for the springless bipeds; in particular, a knee-torque-squared cost, appropriate as a simplified model for electric motor power for a kneed robot biped. Many optimal gaits had symmetry properties; for instance, the left stance phase was identical to the right stance phases. Muscle force–velocity relations and legs with masses have predictable qualitative effects, if any, on the optima. For bipeds with compliant tendons, the muscle work-minimizing strategies have close to zero muscle work (isometric muscles), with the springs performing all the leg work. These zero work gaits also minimize the generalized work costs Cg with substantial additive force or force rate costs, indicating that a running animal's metabolic cost could be dominated by the cost of producing isometric force, even though performing muscle work is usually expensive. I also catalogue the many differences between the optimal gaits of the various models. These differences contain information that might help us develop models that better predict locomotion data. In particular, for some biologically plausible cost functions, the presence or absence of springs in series with muscles has a large effect on both the coordination strategy and the absolute cost; the absence of springs results in more impulsive (collisional) optimal gaits and the presence of springs leads to more compliant optimal gaits. Most results are obtained for specific speed and stride length combinations close to preferred human behaviour, but limited numerical experiments show that some qualitative results extend to other speed-stride length combinations as well.
legged locomotion; walking and running; optimization and optimal control; minimize energy; gaits; metabolic cost
A hybrid neuroprosthesis (HNP) combines lower extremity bracing with functional neuromuscular stimulation (FNS) to restore walking function and enhance the efficiency of ambulation. This report details the development of a novel HNP containing a variable impedance knee mechanism (VIKM) capable of supporting the knee against collapse while allowing controlled stance phase knee flexion. The design of a closed loop, finite state controller for coordination of VIKM activity with FNS-driven gait is presented. The controller is verified in testing during able bodied gait. The improved functionality provided by this system has the potential to delay the onset of fatigue and to expand FNS driven gait to allow walking over uneven terrains and down stairs.
The metabolic cost associated with locomotion represents a significant part of an animal's metabolic energy budget. Therefore understanding the ways in which animals manage the energy required for locomotion by controlling muscular effort is critical to understanding limb design and the evolution of locomotor behavior. The assumption that energetic economy is the most important target of natural selection underlies many analyses of steady animal locomotion, leading to the prediction that animals will choose gaits and postures that maximize energetic efficiency. Many quadrupedal animals, particularly those that specialize in long distance steady locomotion, do in fact reduce the muscular contribution required for walking by adopting pendulum-like center of mass movements that facilitate exchange between kinetic energy (KE) and potential energy (PE) –. However, animals that are not specialized for long distance steady locomotion may face a more complex set of requirements, some of which may conflict with the efficient exchange of mechanical energy. For example, the “stealthy” walking style of cats may demand slow movements performed with the center of mass close to the ground. Force plate and video data show that domestic cats (Felis catus, Linnaeus, 1758) have lower mechanical energy recovery than mammals specialized for distance. A strong negative correlation was found between mechanical energy recovery and diagonality in the footfalls and there was also a negative correlation between limb compression and diagonality of footfalls such that more crouched postures tended to have greater diagonality. These data show a previously unrecognized mechanical relationship in which crouched postures are associated with changes in footfall pattern which are in turn related to reduced mechanical energy recovery. Low energy recovery was not associated with decreased vertical oscillations of the center of mass as theoretically predicted, but rather with posture and footfall pattern on the phase relationship between potential and kinetic energy. An important implication of these results is the possibility of a tradeoff between stealthy walking and economy of locomotion. This potential tradeoff highlights the complex and conflicting pressures that may govern the locomotor choices that animals make.
During natural locomotion, the stiffness of the human knee is modulated continuously and subconsciously according to the demands of activity and terrain. Given modern actuator technology, powered transfemoral prostheses could theoretically provide a similar degree of sophistication and function. However, experimentally quantifying knee stiffness modulation during natural gait is challenging. Alternatively, joint stiffness could be estimated in a less disruptive manner using electromyography (EMG) combined with kinetic and kinematic measurements to estimate muscle force, together with models that relate muscle force to stiffness. Here we present the first step in that process, where we develop such an approach and evaluate it in isometric conditions, where experimental measurements are more feasible. Our EMG-guided modeling approach allows us to consider conditions with antagonistic muscle activation, a phenomenon commonly observed in physiological gait. Our validation shows that model-based estimates of knee joint stiffness coincide well with experimental data obtained using conventional perturbation techniques. We conclude that knee stiffness can be accurately estimated in isometric conditions without applying perturbations, which presents an important step towards our ultimate goal of quantifying knee stiffness during gait.
The study of human evolution depends upon a fair assessment of the ability of hominin individuals to gain access to necessary resources. We expect that the morphology of extant and extinct populations represents a successful locomotory system that allowed individuals to move across the environment gaining access to food, water and mates while still maintaining excess energy to allocate to reproduction. Our assessment of locomotor morphology must then incorporate tests of fitness within realistic environments—environments that themselves vary in terrain and whose negotiation requires a variety of gait and speeds. This study assesses muscular activity (measured as the integrated signal from surface electromyography) of seven thigh and hip muscle groups during walking and running across a wide range of speeds and inclines, in order to systematically assess the role that morphology can play in minimizing muscular activity and thus energy expenditure. Our data suggest that humans are better adapted to walking than running at any slope, as evidenced by small confidence intervals and even trends across speed and incline. We find that while increasing task intensity unsurprisingly increases muscular activity in the lower limb, individuals with longer limbs show significantly reduced activity during both walking and running, especially in the hip adductors, gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. People with a broader pelvis show significantly reduced activity while walking in the hip adductor and hamstring muscles.
human locomotion; EMG; incline; gluteus maximus
A spring-mass model accurately predicts centre of mass dynamics for hopping and running animals and is pervasive throughout experimental and theoretical studies of legged locomotion. Given the neuromechanical complexity of the leg, it remains unclear how joint dynamics are selected to achieve such simple centre of mass movements consistently from step to step and across changing conditions. Human hopping is a tractable experimental model to study how net muscle moments, or joint torques, are coordinated for spring-mass dynamics, which include stable, or invariant, vertical ground forces. Subjects were equally able to stabilize vertical forces at all hopping frequencies (2.2, 2.8, 3.2 Hz) by selecting force-equivalent joint torque combinations. Using a hybrid-uncontrolled manifold permutation analysis, however, we discovered that force stabilization relies less on interjoint coordination at greater hopping frequencies and more on selection of appropriate ankle joint torques. We conclude that control strategies for selecting the joint torques that stabilize forces generated on the ground are adjusted to the rate of movement. Moreover, this indicates that legged locomotion may involve the differential regulation of several redundant motor control strategies that are accessed as needed to match changing environmental conditions.
biomechanics; neuromechanics; UCM; hopping; spring-mass model; motor control
Skipping, a gait children display when they are about four- to five-years-old, is revealed to be more than a behavioural peculiarity. By means of metabolic and biomechanical measurements at several speeds, the relevance of skipping is shown to extend from links between bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion (namely galloping) to understanding why it could be a gait of choice in low-gravity conditions, and to some aspects of locomotion evolution (ground reaction forces of skipping seem to originate from pushing the walking gait to unnaturally high speeds). When the time-courses of mechanical energy and the horizontal ground reaction force are considered, a different locomotion paradigm emerges, enabling us to separate, among the bouncing gaits, the trot from the gallop (quadrupeds) and running from skipping (bipeds). The simultaneous use of pendulum-like and elastic mechanisms in skipping gaits, as shown by the energy curve analysis, helps us to understand the low cost of transport of galloping quadrupeds.