Eric Perreault, PhD
Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Chair of Biomedical Engineering
McCormick School of Engineering
The interplay between neural control and body mechanics in the human motor system
The neural and musculoskeletal systems are intimately linked in the control of movement and posture. The musculoskeletal system serves as a mechanical interface between the computations of our nervous system and our ability to physically interact with the world around us. Similarly, touch and proprioceptive inputs are filtered by the mechanics of the body prior to emerging as a neural code. While the interdependency of these systems is obvious, there remain many scientific studies and clinical assessments of motor behavior that examine the nervous and musculoskeletal systems in isolation. The thesis of this presentation is that neural activity related to movement control is best interpreted when considering the interdependence between that activity and the mechanics of the body. This topic will be explored through three related studies. The first will demonstrate how the geometry of the musculoskeletal system influences our ability to quantify synergistic patterns of muscle activation. The second will investigate how intrinsic muscle properties and musculoskeletal geometry influence the neural strategies for regulating whole limb mechanics. The third will demonstrate how an understanding of these properties can facilitate the design of rehabilitation interventions.