Is my model good enough? Best practices for verification and validation of musculoskeletal models and simulations of movement

J Biomech Eng. 2015 Feb 1;137(2):020905. doi: 10.1115/1.4029304. Epub 2015 Jan 26.


Computational modeling and simulation of neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) systems enables researchers and clinicians to study the complex dynamics underlying human and animal movement. NMS models use equations derived from physical laws and biology to help solve challenging real-world problems, from designing prosthetics that maximize running speed to developing exoskeletal devices that enable walking after a stroke. NMS modeling and simulation has proliferated in the biomechanics research community over the past 25 years, but the lack of verification and validation standards remains a major barrier to wider adoption and impact. The goal of this paper is to establish practical guidelines for verification and validation of NMS models and simulations that researchers, clinicians, reviewers, and others can adopt to evaluate the accuracy and credibility of modeling studies. In particular, we review a general process for verification and validation applied to NMS models and simulations, including careful formulation of a research question and methods, traditional verification and validation steps, and documentation and sharing of results for use and testing by other researchers. Modeling the NMS system and simulating its motion involves methods to represent neural control, musculoskeletal geometry, muscle-tendon dynamics, contact forces, and multibody dynamics. For each of these components, we review modeling choices and software verification guidelines; discuss variability, errors, uncertainty, and sensitivity relationships; and provide recommendations for verification and validation by comparing experimental data and testing robustness. We present a series of case studies to illustrate key principles. In closing, we discuss challenges the community must overcome to ensure that modeling and simulation are successfully used to solve the broad spectrum of problems that limit human mobility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benchmarking
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Documentation
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Joints / metabolism
  • Joints / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software
  • Tendons / metabolism
  • Tendons / physiology