Role of loading on head stability and effective neck stiffness and viscosity

J Biomech. 2008 Jul 19;41(10):2097-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.05.002. Epub 2008 Jun 20.


This experiment tests the hypothesis that loading the head would increase head stability. In particular, we hypothesized that an arrangement of the head so that muscle activation is required to counteract a load would significantly increase effective neck stiffness and viscosity, which would be associated with lower peak head angular velocity following abrupt force perturbations applied to the head. Seven young healthy subjects had their head loaded (preload) using a weight/pulley apparatus. Then, the head was pulled either forward or backward by dropping an additional weight onto the preload, causing an impulse of force followed by an increase in load. We recorded the applied force and head angular velocity. Neck viscoelastic properties as a function of loading were estimated by fitting experimental data to a second-order mathematical model of the head biomechanics. Across preloads varying from 2.22 to 8.89 N, peak head angular velocity decreased by 18.2% for the backward and by 19.9% for forward perturbations. As preload increased, simulated effective neck stiffness and viscosity significantly increased leading to lower peak angular velocity. These results demonstrated that loading reduces peak head angular velocity and that change in muscle stiffness and viscosity is a feasible explanation for this effect. We propose that reduction in peak head velocity could be caused by modulation of the strength of the vestibulo-collic reflex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods*
  • Elasticity
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Head*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Movement
  • Muscle Rigidity*
  • Neck
  • Viscosity
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology