Biomechanical constraints on the feedforward regulation of endpoint stiffness

Xiao Hu*, Wendy M. Murray, Eric J. Perreault

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Although many daily tasks tend to destabilize arm posture, it is still possible to have stable interactions with the environment by regulating the multijoint mechanics of the arm in a task-appropriate manner. For postural tasks, this regulation involves the appropriate control of endpoint stiffness, which represents the stiffness of the arm at the hand. Although experimental studies have been used to evaluate endpoint stiffness control, including the orientation of maximal stiffness, the underlying neural strategies remain unknown. Specifically, the relative importance of feedforward and feedback mechanisms has yet to be determined due to the difficulty separately identifying the contributions of these mechanisms in human experiments. This study used a previously validated three-dimensional musculoskeletal model of the arm to quantify the degree to which the orientation of maximal endpoint stiffness could be changed using only steady-state muscle activations, used to represent feedforward motor commands. Our hypothesis was that the feedforward control of endpoint stiffness orientation would be significantly constrained by the biomechanical properties of the musculoskeletal system. Our results supported this hypothesis, demonstrating substantial biomechanical constraints on the ability to regulate endpoint stiffness throughout the workspace. The ability to regulate stiffness orientation was further constrained by additional task requirements, such as the need to support the arm against gravity or exert forces on the environment. Together, these results bound the degree to which slowly varying feed forward motor commands can be used to regulate the orientation of maximum arm stiffness and provide a context for better understanding conditions in which feedback control may be needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2083-2091
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 2012


  • Arm impedance
  • Endpoint stiffness
  • Musculoskeletal model
  • Postural stability
  • Short-range stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Biomechanical constraints on the feedforward regulation of endpoint stiffness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this