Video_9_The Benefit of Combining Neuronal Feedback and Feed-Forward Control for Robustness in Step Down Perturbations of Simulated Human Walking Depends on the Muscle Function.mp4

It is often assumed that the spinal control of human locomotion combines feed-forward central pattern generation with sensory feedback via muscle reflexes. However, the actual contribution of each component to the generation and stabilization of gait is not well understood, as direct experimental evidence for either is difficult to obtain. We here investigate the relative contribution of the two components to gait stability in a simulation model of human walking. Specifically, we hypothesize that a simple linear combination of feedback and feed-forward control at the level of the spinal cord improves the reaction to unexpected step down perturbations. In previous work, we found preliminary evidence supporting this hypothesis when studying a very reduced model of rebounding behaviors. In the present work, we investigate if the evidence extends to a more realistic model of human walking. We revisit a model that has previously been published and relies on spinal feedback control to generate walking. We extend the control of this model with a feed-forward muscle activation pattern. The feed-forward pattern is recorded from the unperturbed feedback control output. We find that the improvement in the robustness of the walking model with respect to step down perturbations depends on the ratio between the two strategies and on the muscle to which they are applied. The results suggest that combining feed-forward and feedback control is not guaranteed to improve locomotion, as the beneficial effects are dependent on the muscle and its function during walking.