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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Oct 22;270(1529):2173-83.

Positive force feedback in bouncing gaits?

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Biomechanics Laboratory, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Seidelstrasse 20, 07749 Jena, Germany.


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.

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