Control of position and movement is simplified by combined muscle spindle and Golgi tendon organ feedback

D.A. Kistemaker, A.J. van Soest, J.D. Wong, I Kurtzer, P.L. Gribble

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    Whereas muscle spindles play a prominent role in current theories of human motor control, Golgi tendon organs (GTO) and their associated tendons are often neglected. This is surprising since there is ample evidence that both tendons and GTOs contribute importantly to neuromusculoskeletal dynamics. Using detailed musculoskeletal models, we provide evidence that simple feedback using muscle spindles alone results in very poor control of joint position and movement since muscle spindles cannot sense changes in tendon length that occur with changes in muscle force. We propose that a combination of spindle and GTO afferents can provide an estimate of muscle-tendon complex length, which can be effectively used for low-level feedback during both postural and movement tasks. The feasibility of the proposed scheme was tested using detailed musculoskeletal models of the human arm. Responses to transient and static perturbations were simulated using a 1-degree-of-freedom (DOF) model of the arm and showed that the combined feedback enabled the system to respond faster, reach steady state faster, and achieve smaller static position errors. Finally, we incorporated the proposed scheme in an optimally controlled 2-DOF model of the arm for fast point-to-point shoulder and elbow movements. Simulations showed that the proposed feedback could be easily incorporated in the optimal control framework without complicating the computation of the optimal control solution, yet greatly enhancing the system's response to perturbations. The theoretical analyses in this study might furthermore provide insight about the strong physiological couplings found between muscle spindle and GTO afferents in the human nervous system. © 2013 the American Physiological Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1126-1139
    JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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