Dynamics of the human head-neck system in the horizontal plane: joint properties with respect to a static torque

Ann Biomed Eng. 2003 May;31(5):606-20. doi: 10.1114/1.1566772.


The vestibular system has often been studied by perturbing the position of the head. This study was conducted to identify the dynamic properties of the head-neck system in response to horizontal plane perturbations. A quasilinear approach was used to quantify the dynamics of the head-neck system at different levels of static torque. An operating point was established by applying a static torque to the head with a helmet-based perturber. The head-neck dynamics were then probed with a rich spectrum, stochastic, torque perturbation. Impulse response functions (IRFs) were estimated from correlation measures, and parametric models were fit to the IRFs. The results indicated that when the mean torque was held constant, the head-neck system behaved like a second-order, underdamped, passive system between 0.5 and 10.0 Hz. The system was not strictly linear, however. The properties of the system were sensitive to the static component of the torque. As the mean torque increased, the effective stiffness and damping progressively increased, and did so such that the system's damping ratio remained essentially constant. The findings of the study will assist in designing stimuli that are well tolerated by subjects and can induce head motions that span the performance capabilities of the vestibular system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / physiology
  • Equipment Design
  • Feedback
  • Head / physiology*
  • Head Protective Devices
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neck / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation / instrumentation*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Torque