Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurophysiol. 1997 Jun;77(6):3226-36.

Positive force feedback control of muscles.

Author information

Division of Neuroscience, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


This study was prompted by recent evidence for the existence of positive force feedback in feline locomotor control. Our aim was to establish some basic properties of positive force feedback in relation to load compensation, stability, intrinsic muscle properties, and interaction with displacement feedback. In human subjects, muscles acting about the wrist and ankle were activated by feedback-controlled electrical stimulation. The feedback signals were obtained from sensors monitoring force and displacement. The signals were filtered to mimic transduction by mammalian tendon organ and muscle spindle receptors. We found that when muscles under positive force feedback were loaded inertially, they responded in a stable manner with increased active force. The activation attenuated the muscle stretch (yield) that would otherwise occur in the absence of feedback. With enough positive force feedback gain, yield could actually reverse. This behavior, which we termed the affirming reaction, was reminiscent of the mammalian positive supporting reaction, a postural response elicited by contact of the foot with the ground. Muscles under positive force feedback remained stable, even when the loop gain (Gf) was set at levels of 2 or 3. In a linear system, if Gf > 1, instability occurs when the loop is closed. On further investigation, we found that Gf changed with joint angle: it declined as the load-bearing muscle actively shortened. We inferred that in closed-loop operation, the active muscles always shortened until Gf approached unity. In other words, the length-tension curve of active muscle ensures stability even when force-related excitation of motoneurons is very large. Concomitant negative displacement feedback reinforced and stabilized load compensation up to a certain gain, beyond which instability occurred. In further trials we included delays of up to 40 ms in the positive force feedback pathway, to model the delays recently described for tendon organ reflexes in cat locomotion. Contrary to expectations, this did not destabilize the loop. Indeed, when instability was deliberately evoked by setting displacement feedback gain high, delays in the positive force feedback pathway actually stabilized control. The stabilization of positive force feedback by inherent properties of the neuromuscular system increases the functional scope to be expected of feedback from force receptors in biological motor control. Our results provide a rationale for the delayed excitatory action of Ib heteronymous input on extensor motoneurons in cat locomotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center