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Imaging and simulation of inter-muscular differences in triceps surae contributions to forward propulsion during walking.

Clark WH, Pimentel RE, Franz JR.

Abstract. Forward propulsion during the push-off phase of walking is largely governed at the ankle by differential neuromechanical contributions from the biarticular medial (MG) and lateral gastrocnemii (LG) and the uniarticular soleus (SOL). However, the relative contribution of these individual muscles to forward propulsion is equivocal, with important implications for the design and control of wearable assistive devices and for targeted therapeutics. The aim of this study was to evaluate the agreement between empirical and model-predicted triceps surae contributions to forward propulsion during walking using conditions that systematically manipulated both walking speed and the mechanical demand for forward propulsion at a fixed speed – through the use of aiding and impeding forces. Ten young adults (age: 24.1 ± 3.6 years, 6M/4F) participated. We found that muscle-specific responses derived from experimental measurements (i.e., activation and fascicle behavior) were consistent with those derived from musculoskeletal simulations (i.e., muscle force and positive mechanical work) within the same subjects. In vivo, compared to walking normally, only LG muscle activation was affected by both aiding and impeding forces. Similarly, increased propulsive demand elicited greater relative fascicle shortening in the MG but not the SOL. In silico, only MG and LG force and positive mechanical work increased significantly to meet the increased demands for forward propulsion. By combining electromyography, ultrasound imaging, and musculoskeletal modeling in the same subjects, our cumulative findings suggest that the biarticular gastrocnemius muscles play a more significant role than the uniarticular soleus in governing changes in forward propulsion during the mid to late stance phase of walking.

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