April 2018, Vol. 30, No. 4, Pages 1104-1131
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Muscle Synergy–Driven Robust Motion Control
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Humans are able to robustly maintain desired motion and posture under dynamically changing circumstances, including novel conditions. To accomplish this, the brain needs to optimize the synergistic control between muscles against external dynamic factors. However, previous related studies have usually simplified the control of multiple muscles using two opposing muscles, which are minimum actuators to simulate linear feedback control. As a result, they have been unable to analyze how muscle synergy contributes to motion control robustness in a biological system. To address this issue, we considered a new muscle synergy concept used to optimize the synergy between muscle units against external dynamic conditions, including novel conditions. We propose that two main muscle control policies synergistically control muscle units to maintain the desired motion against external dynamic conditions. Our assumption is based on biological evidence regarding the control of multiple muscles via the corticospinal tract. One of the policies is the group control policy (GCP), which is used to control muscle group units classified based on functional similarities in joint control. This policy is used to effectively resist external dynamic circumstances, such as disturbances. The individual control policy (ICP) assists the GCP in precisely controlling motion by controlling individual muscle units. To validate this hypothesis, we simulated the reinforcement of the synergistic actions of the two control policies during the reinforcement learning of feedback motion control. Using this learning paradigm, the two control policies were synergistically combined to result in robust feedback control under novel transient and sustained disturbances that did not involve learning. Further, by comparing our data to experimental data generated by human subjects under the same conditions as those of the simulation, we showed that the proposed synergy concept may be used to analyze muscle synergy–driven motion control robustness in humans.