Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering - (M.S.)

Department

Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Richard A. Foulds

Second Advisor

Sergei Adamovich

Third Advisor

Tara L. Alvarez

Abstract

Several studies such as the equilibrium point hypothesis (EPH) purport that the motor signals that descend from the brain instead of encoding muscle torques, influence an existing relationship between muscle torque and body configuration.

In the present study, the possibility of torque depending explicitly on position was tested using a task in which subjects (N=5) moved a simulated weightless frictionless mass through a small (<8 degree) elbow extension in order to move a cursor on a screen to a target location. Each subject completed 720 trials. On ~10% of trials the simulated mass was increased unknown to the subject. The relationship between the cursor’s position and the torque applied to the system was held constant even when the simulated mass was increased. Thus, any change in torque produced was neither due the subjects’ perception of the mass nor due to their perception of the cursor. The time at which the subjects torque changed direction was seen to be significantly different (p<0.005) during trials which the mass changed. This change in torque is concluded to be position-dependent. However the possibility of this being a merely mechanical effect could not be ruled out by due to poor EMG collection.

A post-hoc analysis of different position-dependent motor control models, was done. Particularly, an exponential spring model, a linear spring model, and a linear spring with relative damping model were each tested to see how well they could predict a change in produced output torque from a change in position. Only the linear spring and relative damping models were able to do so.

This experiment is not enough to prove that descending torque produced is systematically position-dependent but the methodology for testing models is promising and additional studies should be done along similar lines.

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