Computational modeling has improved our understanding of how muscle forces are coordinated to generate movement in musculoskeletal systems. Muscular-hydrostat systems, such as the human tongue, involve very different biomechanics than musculoskeletal systems, and modeling efforts to date have been limited by the high computational complexity of representing continuum-mechanics. In this study, we developed a computationally efficient tracking-based algorithm for prediction of muscle activations during dynamic 3D finite element simulations. The formulation uses a local quadratic-programming problem at each simulation time-step to find a set of muscle activations that generated target deformations and movements in finite element muscular-hydrostat models. We applied the technique to a 3D finite element tongue model for protrusive and bending movements. Predicted muscle activations were consistent with experimental recordings of tongue strain and electromyography. Upward tongue bending was achieved by recruitment of the superior longitudinal sheath muscle, which is consistent with muscular-hydrostat theory. Lateral tongue bending, however, required recruitment of contralateral transverse and vertical muscles in addition to the ipsilateral margins of the superior longitudinal muscle, which is a new proposition for tongue muscle coordination. Our simulation framework provides a new computational tool for systematic analysis of muscle forces in continuum-mechanics models that is complementary to experimental data and shows promise for eliciting a deeper understanding of human tongue function.
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