Research Summary: Task-Level Strategies for Human Sagittal-Plane Running Maneuvers Are Consistent with Robotic Control Policies


The strategies that humans use to control unsteady locomotion are not well understood. A “spring-mass” template comprised of a point mass bouncing on a sprung leg can approximate both center of mass movements and ground reaction forces during running in humans and other animals. Legged robots that operate as bouncing, “spring-mass” systems can maintain stable motion using relatively simple, distributed feedback rules. We tested whether the changes to sagittal-plane movements during five running tasks involving active changes to running height, speed, and orientation were consistent with the rules used by bouncing robots to maintain stability. Changes to running height were associated with changes to leg force but not stance duration. To change speed, humans primarily used a “pogo stick” strategy, where speed changes were associated with adjustments to fore-aft foot placement, and not a “unicycle” strategy involving systematic changes to stance leg hip moment. However, hip moments were related to changes to body orientation and angular speed. Hip moments could be described with first order proportional-derivative relationship to trunk pitch. Overall, the task-level strategies used for body control in humans were consistent with the strategies employed by bouncing robots. Identification of these behavioral strategies could lead to a better understanding of the sensorimotor mechanisms that allow for effective unsteady locomotion.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 20-December-2012

Author(s): Qiao M., Jindrich D.


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