DOI: 10.1101/506808Dec 27, 2018Paper

Energy Optimization is a Major Objective in the Real-Time Control of Step Width in Human Walking

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Sabrina J. AbramJ Maxwell Donelan


People prefer to move in energetically optimal ways during walking. We have recently found that this preference arises not just through evolution and development, but that the nervous system will continuously optimize step frequency in response to new energetic cost landscapes. Here we test whether energy optimization is also a major objective in the nervous system's real-time control of step width. To accomplish this, we use a device that can reshape the relationship between step width and energetic cost, shifting the energy optimal width wider than that initially preferred. We find that the nervous system doesn't spontaneously initiate energy optimization, but instead requires experience with a lower energetic cost step width. After initiating optimization, people converge towards their new energy optimal width within hundreds of steps and update this as their new preferred width, rapidly returning to it when perturbed away. However, energy optimization was incomplete as this new preferred width was slightly narrower than the energetically optimal width. This suggests that the nervous system may determine its preferred width by optimizing energy simultaneously with other objectives such as stability or maneuverability. Collec...Continue Reading

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