Asymmetric interjoint feedback contributes to postural control of redundant multi-link systems

J Neural Eng. 2007 Sep;4(3):234-45. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/4/3/009. Epub 2007 May 4.


Maintaining the postural configuration of a limb such as an arm or leg is a fundamental neural control task that involves the coordination of multiple linked body segments. Biological systems are known to use a complex network of inter- and intra-joint feedback mechanisms arising from muscles, spinal reflexes and higher neuronal structures to stabilize the limbs. While previous work has shown that a small amount of asymmetric heterogenic feedback contributes to the behavior of these systems, a satisfactory functional explanation for this non-conservative feedback structure has not been put forth. We hypothesized that an asymmetric multi-joint control strategy would confer both an energetic and stability advantage in maintaining endpoint position of a kinematically redundant system. We tested this hypothesis by using optimal control models incorporating symmetric versus asymmetric feedback with the goal of maintaining the endpoint location of a kinematically redundant, planar limb. Asymmetric feedback improved endpoint control performance of the limb by 16%, reduced energetic cost by 21% and increased interjoint coordination by 40% compared to the symmetric feedback system. The overall effect of the asymmetry was that proximal joint motion resulted in greater torque generation at distal joints than vice versa. The asymmetric organization is consistent with heterogenic stretch reflex gains measured experimentally. We conclude that asymmetric feedback has a functionally relevant role in coordinating redundant degrees of freedom to maintain the position of the hand or foot.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology*
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*