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Postural maintenance during movement: Simulations of a two joint model


Voluntary movements of the upper body are accompanied by anticipatory postural adjustments to the lower body in a standing subject. The long-standing hypothesis is that these anticipatory adjustments serve to counteract the perturbation to the body's center of gravity caused by the voluntary arm movement. This paper presents model simulations investigating the possible roles of anticipatory postural activity that accompanies a rapid, upward arm swing. The model encorporates two (idealized) antagonistic muscle pairs controlling the movements of a double-joint system, with a “shoulder joint” between the arm and stiff body links, and an “ankle joint” between the stiff body-leg segment and the ground. Each muscle is represented by a nonlinear viscoelastic element and also includes proprioceptive feedback. Four inputs to the model define the motor control signals for muscle force generation in both the arm and the postural muscle pairs. The neurological component of the model describes consequences of alternate strategies for cocontractions, stretch reflex activity, and anticipatory and synchronous postural activities (or combinations thereof). Simulations with this model show that: (1) none of the postural maintenance schemes considered in these simulations (including varying anticipation) could suppress the initial backward thrust on the body link; (2) the more important destabilizing perturbation is a subsequent forward sway that, left uncountered by postural activity, would eventually leave the body to fall flat on its face; and (3) anticipatory silencing of the postural extensor followed by a brief period of extensor activation (descending control) and synchronous reflex activity (feedback control) appears to be the most likely postural stabilizing strategy that inhibits the continuous forward sway and is consistent with the experimental evidence.

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Ramos, C.F., Stark, L.W. Postural maintenance during movement: Simulations of a two joint model. Biol. Cybern. 63, 363–375 (1990).

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  • Reflex Activity
  • Muscle Pair
  • Anticipatory Postural Adjustment
  • Extensor Activation
  • Postural Maintenance