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The Value of Modeling and Simulations

Determining the causal relationship between muscle function and an observed motion is a key step in fully understanding normal movement as well as for establishing a scientific basis for prescribing treatment strategies for pathological movement patterns. However, experimental techniques alone, such as gait analysis and EMG, are not able to fully understand the complex neuromuscular dynamics associated with human motion.

Computer simulations of human movement have proven to be powerful tools to establish such cause-effect relationships. Simulations are well suited for estimating key data, such as muscle forces, that are difficult to obtain from experimental approaches alone. These simulations can be used to help understand muscle activations, joint kinematics, and internal joint loading and thereby can shed light onto mechanisms of pathological or altered kinematics. Dynamic simulations are well-suited for performing “what if?” studies in which, for example, the activation or force production of one muscle or muscle group can be changed to observe the resulting motion and muscle forces. Forward-dynamic simulations are especially useful for studying functional tasks because they involve the application of forces to produce motions, offering potential insights into the roles played by individual muscles during a task. These simulations also permit monitoring of other variables of interest such as joint contact forces which may affect functional performance and offer insight as to the biomechanical reasons for suboptimal outcomes.


Our Approach

We create dynamic simulations of human movement with the software package known as OpenSim. Our simulation studies span the movements of gait, the sit-to-stand task, and stair climbing and include healthy young and old populations as well as patients with varying knee OA severity.

We currently have the following active projects:
• Differentiating muscle contributions to support and progression during gait in older and young adults
• Analysis of stair ascent and descent in a young, healthy population
• Investigation of the sit-to-stand task in a knee OA population


Musculoskeletal Modeling and Simulation of Human Movement