Is equilibrium point control feasible for fast goal-directed single-joint movements?

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    Several types of equilibrium point (EP) controllers have been proposed for the control of posture and movement. EP controllers are appealing from a computational perspective because they do not require solving the "inverse dynamic problem" (i.e., computation of the torques required to move a system along a desired trajectory). It has been argued that EP controllers are not capable of controlling fast single-joint movements. To refute this statement, several extensions have been proposed, although these have been tested using models in which only the tendon compliance, force-length-velocity relation, and mechanical interaction between tendon and contractile element were not adequately represented. In the present study, fast elbow-joint movements were measured and an attempt was made to reproduce these using a realistic musculoskeletal model of the human arm. Three types of EP controllers were evaluated: an open-loop α-controller, a closed-loop λ-controller, and a hybrid open- and closed-loop controller. For each controller we considered a continuous version and a version in which the control signals were sent out intermittently. Only the intermittent hybrid EP controller was capable of generating movements that were as fast as those of the subjects. As a result of the nonlinear muscle properties, the hybrid EP controller requires a more detailed representation of static muscle properties than generally assumed in the context of EP control. In sum, this study shows that fast single-joint movements can be realized without explicitly solving the inverse dynamics problem, but in a less straightforward manner than implied by proponents of conventional EP controllers. Copyright © 2006 The American Physiological Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2898-912
    JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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