Much remains unknown about how considerations such as stability and energy minimization shape the way humans walk. While active neuromotor control keeps humans upright, they also need to choose from multiple stepping regulation strategies to achieve one or more task goals, such as maintaining a desired speed or direction. Experiments on human treadmill walking motivate an important question: why do humans prefer one task-level regulation strategy over another - perhaps to enhance their ability to reject large disturbances? Here, we study the relationship between task-level regulation and global stability in a powered compass walker on a treadmill, with added step-to-step speed and position regulators. For treadmill walking, we find that speed regulation greatly enlarges and regularizes the unregulated walker's stability region, i.e. its basin of attraction, much more than position regulation. Thus, our results suggest a possible explanation for the experimental finding that humans strongly prioritize regulating speed from one stride to the next, even as they walk economically on average. Furthermore, our work suggests a functional connection between task-level motor regulation and global stability - and, thus, perhaps even fall risk.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering