A predictive model of muscle excitations based on muscle modularity for a large repertoire of human locomotion conditions

Jose Gonzalez-Vargas*, Massimo Sartori, Strahinja Dosen, Diego Torricelli, Jose L. Pons, Dario Farina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Humans can efficiently walk across a large variety of terrains and locomotion conditions with little or no mental effort. It has been hypothesized that the nervous system simplifies neuromuscular control by using muscle synergies, thus organizing multi-muscle activity into a small number of coordinative co-activation modules. In the present study we investigated how muscle modularity is structured across a large repertoire of locomotion conditions including five different speeds and five different ground elevations. For this we have used the non-negative matrix factorization technique in order to explain EMG experimental data with a low-dimensional set of four motor components. In this context each motor components is composed of a non-negative factor and the associated muscle weightings. Furthermore, we have investigated if the proposed descriptive analysis of muscle modularity could be translated into a predictive model that could: (1) Estimate how motor components modulate across locomotion speeds and ground elevations. This implies not only estimating the non-negative factors temporal characteristics, but also the associated muscle weighting variations. (2) Estimate how the resulting muscle excitations modulate across novel locomotion conditions and subjects. The results showed three major distinctive features of muscle modularity: (1) the number of motor components was preserved across all locomotion conditions, (2) the non-negative factors were consistent in shape and timing across all locomotion conditions, and (3) the muscle weightings were modulated as distinctive functions of locomotion speed and ground elevation. Results also showed that the developed predictive model was able to reproduce well the muscle modularity of un-modeled data, i.e., novel subjects and conditions. Muscle weightings were reconstructed with a cross-correlation factor greater than 70% and a root mean square error less than 0.10. Furthermore, the generated muscle excitations matched well the experimental excitation with a cross-correlation factor greater than 85% and a root mean square error less than 0.09. The ability of synthetizing the neuromuscular mechanisms underlying human locomotion across a variety of locomotion conditions will enable solutions in the field of neurorehabilitation technologies and control of bipedal artificial systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalFrontiers in Computational Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 17 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Human locomotion
  • Human modeling
  • Muscle modularity
  • Muscle synergies
  • Neuromusculoskeletal system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)


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