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School of Medicine


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Neural control of movement can only be realized though the interaction between the mechanical properties of the limb and the environment. Thus, a fundamental question is whether anatomy has evolved to simplify neural control by shaping these interactions in a beneficial way. This inductive data-driven study analyzed the patterns of muscle actions across multiple joints using the musculoskeletal model of the human upper limb. This model was used to calculate muscle lengths across the full range of motion of the arm and examined the correlations between these values between all pairs of muscles. Musculoskeletal coupling was quantified using hierarchical clustering analysis. Muscle lengths between multiple pairs of muscles across multiple postures were highly correlated. These correlations broadly formed two proximal and distal groups, where proximal muscles of the arm were correlated with each other and distal muscles of the arm and hand were correlated with each other, but not between groups. Using hierarchical clustering, between 11 and 14 reliable muscle groups were identified. This shows that musculoskeletal anatomy does indeed shape the mechanical interactions by grouping muscles into functional clusters that generally match the functional repertoire of the human arm. Together, these results support the idea that the structure of the musculoskeletal system is tuned to solve movement complexity problem by reducing the dimensionality of available solutions.

Source Citation

Gritsenko, V., Hardesty, R. L., Boots, M. T., & Yakovenko, S. (2016). Biomechanical Constraints Underlying Motor Primitives Derived from the Musculoskeletal Anatomy of the Human Arm. PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0164050.


© 2016 Gritsenko et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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