The effects of mechanical scale on neural control and the regulation of joint stability

Gil Serrancolí*, Cristiano Alessandro, Matthew C. Tresch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Recent work has demonstrated how the size of an animal can affect neural control strategies, showing that passive viscoelastic limb properties have a significant role in determining limb movements in small animals but are less important in large animals. We extend that work to consider effects of mechanical scaling on the maintenance of joint integrity; i.e., the prevention of aberrant contact forces within joints that might lead to joint dislocation or cartilage degradation. We first performed a literature review to evaluate how properties of ligaments responsible for joint integrity scale with animal size. Although we found that the cross-sectional area of the anterior cruciate ligament generally scaled with animal size, as expected, the effects of scale on the ligament’s mechanical properties were less clear, suggesting potential adaptations in passive contributions to the maintenance of joint integrity across species. We then analyzed how the neural control of joint stability is altered by body scale. We show how neural control strategies change across mechanical scales, how this scaling is affected by passive muscle properties and the cost function used to specify muscle activations, and the consequences of scaling on internal joint contact forces. This work provides insights into how scale affects the regulation of joint integrity by both passive and active processes and provides directions for studies examining how this regulation might be accomplished by neural systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2018
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • Joint stability
  • Ligament
  • Mechanical scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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