About this Research Topic
The central nervous and musculoskeletal systems evolved together to generate coordinated movement, intercommunicating through sensory feedback and motor output. These neuromechanical circuits manage mechanical interactions between the body and the environment and in so doing preserve stability and minimize the potential for injurious damage to the body. Understanding the functions of these circuits requires knowledge of both musculoskeletal and neural components and their interactions. Decades of research have been devoted to the study of the two systems independently, and in recent years investigators have begun to increasingly focus on their interactions. A variety of species have been used to gain insight into the role of neuromechanical circuits for different forms of locomotion and movement, and the results have been valuable for both clinical and engineering applications, such as prosthetics and robotic design.
Considerable information is available concerning musculoskeletal biomechanics and the associated neural pathways in the spinal cords and brainstems of several species, including humans and terrestrial and avian non-human animals. Nonetheless, a need remains for greater integration of this knowledge to understand the interactions among the neural and musculoskeletal systems and to generate shared frameworks of understanding across historically separate subdisciplines.
The purpose of this Research Topic is to showcase novel research merging and integrating components of both the mechanics and neural systems into a neuromechanical circuit analysis approach that (1) brings these two components of the motor system together, (2) relates the structure and function of the circuits to the motor behavior of each species, and (3) spans the topics of locomotion and manipulation.
These studies are provoking a re-evaluation of some traditional concepts about neural control that appear in textbooks and the primary literature, and they are introducing new ways of thinking about the mechanisms of motor behavior. Examples of concepts requiring updating or revision include (1) the myotatic unit concept, an idea that does not reflect the complexity and distributed nature of either the musculoskeletal system or associated neural pathways, and (2) the concept that behavior is driven by the brain, an idea that does not consider that motor behavior emerges from the interactions between the sensorimotor system and environment.
We welcome articles that address the following themes:
• Integration of feedforward and feedback control
• Embodied control, and integration of intrinsic mechanics and neural control
• Alternative viewpoints on modularity versus parallel-distributed processing
• Action of neural pathways to manage the physical properties of the body and environment
• Regulation of limb impedance and interjoint coordination
• Integration of pattern generators and neuromechanical circuits
• Insights from the study of neurological disorders
• Development and evolution of neuromechanical circuits
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.