A musculoskeletal model of the upper extremity for use in the development of neuroprosthetic systems

Dimitra Blana, Juan G Hincapie, Edward K Chadwick, Robert F Kirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Upper extremity neuroprostheses use functional electrical stimulation (FES) to restore arm motor function to individuals with cervical level spinal cord injury. For the design and testing of these systems, a biomechanical model of the shoulder and elbow has been developed, to be used as a substitute for the human arm. It can be used to design and evaluate specific implementations of FES systems, as well as FES controllers. The model can be customized to simulate a variety of pathological conditions. For example, by adjusting the maximum force the muscles can produce, the model can be used to simulate an individual with tetraplegia and to explore the effects of FES of different muscle sets. The model comprises six bones, five joints, nine degrees of freedom, and 29 shoulder and arm muscles. It was developed using commercial, graphics-based modeling and simulation packages that are easily accessible to other researchers and can be readily interfaced to other analysis packages. It can be used for both forward-dynamic (inputs: muscle activation and external load; outputs: motions) and inverse-dynamic (inputs: motions and external load; outputs: muscle activation) simulations. Our model was verified by comparing the model calculated muscle activations to electromyographic signals recorded from shoulder and arm muscles of five subjects. As an example of its application to neuroprosthesis design, the model was used to demonstrate the importance of rotator cuff muscle stimulation when aiming to restore humeral elevation. It is concluded that this model is a useful tool in the development and implementation of upper extremity neuroprosthetic systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1714-1721
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number8
Early online date16 Apr 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Grant support
N01 NS012333/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States
N01 NS 1233/NS/NINDS NIH HHS/United States


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