The popular Hill model for muscle activation and contractile dynamics has been extended with several different formulations for predicting the metabolic energy expenditure of human muscle actions. These extended models differ considerably in their approach to computing energy expenditure, particularly in their treatment of active lengthening and eccentric work, but their predictive abilities have never been compared. In this study, we compared the predictions of five different Hill-based muscle energy models in 3D forward dynamics simulations of normal human walking. In a data-tracking simulation that minimized muscle fatigue, the energy models predicted metabolic costs that varied over a three-fold range (2.45-7.15 J/m/kg), with the distinction arising from whether or not eccentric work was subtracted from the net heat rate in the calculation of the muscle metabolic rate. In predictive simulations that optimized neuromuscular control to minimize the metabolic cost, all five models predicted similar speeds, step lengths, and stance phase durations. However, some of the models predicted a hip circumduction strategy to minimize metabolic cost, while others did not, and the accuracy of the predicted knee and ankle angles and ground reaction forces also depended on the energy model used. The results highlights the need to clarify how eccentric work should be treated when calculating muscle energy expenditure, the difficulty in predicting realistic metabolic costs in simulated walking even with a detailed 3D musculoskeletal model, the potential for using such models to predict energetically-optimal gait modifications, and the room for improvement in existing muscle energy models and locomotion simulation frameworks.
Keywords: Forward dynamics; Gait; Hill muscle model; Metabolic cost.
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