Physiological Mechanisms for Stabilizing the Limb when Working with Tools

Patrice Senot1, Loic Damm2, Michele Tagliabue3, Joseph McIntyre4

  • 1Université Paris Descartes - Sorbonne Paris Cité
  • 2University of Montpellier
  • 3CNPP - UMR8119 - CNRS - Université Paris Descartes
  • 4Tecnalia Research and Innovation



Invited Lectures


Neural and Rehabilitation Engineering


08:00 - 09:30 | Wed 17 Aug | Fantasia A | WeAT1

Strategies and Mechanisms in Human Motor Control


Smooth physical interaction with our environment, such as when working with tools, requires adaptability to unpredictable perturbations that can be achieved through impedance control of multi-joint limbs. Modulation of arm stiffness can be achieved either increasing co-contraction of antagonistic muscles or by increasing the gain of spinal reflex loops. According to the "automatic gain scaling" principle, the spinal reflex gain, as measured via the H-reflex, scales with muscle activation. A previous experiment from our labs suggested, however, that reflex gains might instead be scaled to the force exerted by the limb, perhaps as a means to counteract destabilizing external forces. The goal of our experiment was to test whether force output, rather than the muscular activity per se, could be the critical factor determining reflex gain. Five subjects generated different levels of force at the wrist with or without assistance to dissociate applied force from agonist muscular activity. We recorded contact force, EMG and H-reflex response from a wrist flexor. We did not find a strict relationship between reflex gain and contact force but nor did we observe consistent modulation of reflex gain simply as a function of agonist muscle activity. These results are discussed in relation to the stability of the task constraints.

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