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Reconstructing muscle activation during normal walking: a comparison of symbolic and connectionist machine learning techniques


One symbolic (rule-based inductive learning) and one connectionist (neural network) machine learning technique were used to reconstruct muscle activation patterns from kinematic data measured during normal human walking at several speeds. The activation patterns (or desired outputs) consisted of surface electromyographic (EMG) signals from the semitendinosus and vastus medialis muscles. The inputs consisted of flexion and extension angles measured at the hip and knee of the ipsilateral leg, their first and second derivatives, and bilateral foot contact information. The training set consisted of data from six trials, at two different speeds. The testing set consisted of data from two additional trials (one at each speed), which were not in the training set. It was possible to reconstruct the muscular activation at both speeds using both techniques. Timing of the reconstructed signals was accurate. The integrated value of the activation bursts was less accurate. The neural network gave a continuous output, whereas the rule-based inductive learning rule tree gave a quantised activation level. The advantage of rule-based inductive learning was that the rules used were both explicit and comprehensible, whilst the rules used by the neural network were implicit within its structure and not easily comprehended. The neural network was able to reconstruct the activation patterns of both muscles from one network, whereas two separate rule sets were needed for the rule-based technique. It is concluded that machine learning techniques, in comparison to explicit inverse muscular skeletal models, show good promise in modelling nearly cyclic movements such as locomotion at varying walking speeds. However, they do not provide insight into the biomechanics of the system, because they are not based on the biomechanical structure of the system.

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Correspondence to Peter H. Veltink.

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Heller, B.W., Veltink, P.H., Rijkhoff, N.J.M. et al. Reconstructing muscle activation during normal walking: a comparison of symbolic and connectionist machine learning techniques. Biol. Cybern. 69, 327–335 (1993).

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  • Activation Pattern
  • Machine Learning Technique
  • Vastus Medialis
  • Cyclic Movement
  • Muscle Activation Pattern