Dynamic head-neck stabilization and modulation with perturbation bandwidth investigated using a multisegment neuromuscular model

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The human head-neck system requires continuous stabilization in the presence of gravity and trunk motion. We investigated contributions of the vestibulocollic reflex (VCR), the cervicocollic reflex (CCR), and neck muscle co-contraction to head-in-space and head-on-trunk stabilization, and investigated modulation of the stabilization strategy with the frequency content of trunk perturbations and the presence of visual feedback.

We developed a multisegment cervical spine model where reflex gains (VCR and CCR) and neck muscle co-contraction were estimated by fitting the model to the response of young healthy subjects, seated and exposed to anterior-posterior trunk motion, with frequency content from 0.3 up to 1, 2, 4 and 8 Hz, with and without visual feedback.

The VCR contributed to head-in-space stabilization with a strong reduction of head rotation (<8 Hz) and a moderate reduction of head translation (>1 Hz). The CCR contributed to head-on-trunk stabilization with a reduction of head rotation and head translation relative to the trunk (<2 Hz). The CCR also proved essential to stabilize the individual intervertebral joints and prevent neck buckling. Co-contraction was estimated to be of minor relevance. Control strategies employed during low bandwidth perturbations most effectively reduced head rotation and head relative displacement up to 3 Hz while control strategies employed during high bandwidth perturbations reduced head global translation between 1 and 4 Hz. This indicates a shift from minimizing head-on-trunk rotation and translation during low bandwidth perturbations to minimizing head-in-space translation during high bandwidth perturbations. Presence of visual feedback had limited effects suggesting increased usage of vestibular feedback.