Feb 1, 2002

Quantifying dynamic stability and maneuverability in legged locomotion

Integrative and Comparative Biology
Robert J FullDaniel E Koditschek


Animals can swerve, dodge, dive, climb, turn and stop abruptly. Their stability and maneuverability are remarkable, but a challenge to quantify. Formal stability analysis can allow for quantitative comparisons within and among species. Stability analysis used in concert with a template (a simple, general model that serves as a guide for control) can lead to testable hypotheses of function. Neural control models postulated without knowledge of the animal's mechanical (musculo-skeletal) system can be counterproductive and even destabilizing. Perturbations actively corrected by reflex feedback in one direction can result in perturbations in other directions because the system is coupled dynamically. The passive rate of recovery from a perturbation in one direction differs from rates in other directions. We hypothesize that animals might exert less neural control in directions that rapidly recover via passive dynamics (e.g., in body orientation and rotation). By contrast, animals are likely to exert more neural control in directions that recover slowly or not at all via passive dynamics (e.g., forward velocity and heading). Neural control best enhances stability when it works with the natural, passive dynamics of the mechanical sys...Continue Reading

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Examination of Reflexes
Articular System
Skeletal System

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