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Scientific Foundations
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Section: Scientific Foundations

Modelling and controlling the human sensory-motor system

Our global approach is based on the theoretical tools of the automatic control theory.


Designing efficient control schemes and performing realistic simulations need for modelling. The scientific approach is to develop multi scale models based on the physiological microscopic reality up to a macroscopic behavior of the main parts of the sensory motor system: muscles, natural sensors and neural structures. We also aim at describing multi scale time models to determine impulse synchronized responses that occur in a reflex or with FES, up to a long term fatigue phenomenon. All these models have a control input that allows them to be linked as different blocks of the sensory motor system.

Besides, we have to deal with problems related to the identification protocols. Identification is then based on the observation of signals such as EMG, output forces, and movement kinematics, while medical imaging gives the geometrical parameters and mass distributions. The success of the identification process is highly sensitive to the quality of the experimental protocols on animals and humans.

Synthesis & simulation

Simulation platforms have been largely developed for biped systems, including advanced impact models (using non regular equation, work carried out in collaboration with BIPOP). Given that kinematics and dynamics are described using Denavit-Hartenberg parameters and the Lagrangian formulae, such tools can be used. Nevertheless, important differences rely on the actuators and their associated model. Thus, based on this platform, a new one can be developed including the complex muscle dynamics. In particular, muscle dynamics contain discontinuous switching modes (contraction - relaxation, extension - shortening), strong non linearities, length and shortening speed dependencies that imply complex numerical resolutions.

As regards synthesis, generating a useful and efficient movement means that criteria can be defined and evaluated through an accurate numeric simulation. Optimization methods are then used to process the data in order to obtain stimulation patterns for a given movement. Two problems occur, firstly the complexity of the models may provoke the failure of the optimization process, secondly the criteria that have to be optimized are not always known. For instance, we have to define what is a "normal" gait for a paraplegic patient under FES; are the global energy, the joint torques, the estimated fatigue for each muscle the appropriate criteria ?

Closed loop control

Some tasks cannot be performed using open loop strategies. Keeping standing position with a balance control can be improved as regard the fatigue effect using ankle / knee / hip angle sensors feedback. Muscle's contraction is then controlled to ensure the minimum of fatigue with the maximum stability. Cycling, walking on long distance pathways, need some control to be achieved with a higher level of performance. Modelling and simulation will be used to design control strategies while theoretical studies of performances (robustness, stability, accuracy) will be carried out. The system is highly non linear and not completely observable. New problems arise so that new strategies have to be designed. Finally a compromise between complexity, efficiency, robustness, and easy usage of the system has to be found. Thus, the success of a control strategy design will be evaluated not only through its intrinsic performances but also regarding its ergonomic.

Advanced control strategy such as high order sliding modes for the low level control of the co-contraction will be studied because of its robustness towards model uncertainty. Trajectory free predictive control will be also investigated for a movement phase such as swing phase during gait, because the movement can be described as intuitive constraints such as the center of mass need not to fall. Finally high level hybrid approaches based on continuous control and event triggered commutation of strategies will be studied using a formal representation of the architecture.


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