Sensory synergy as environmental input integration




The development of a method to feed proper environmental inputs back to the central nervous system (CNS) remains one of the challenges in achieving natural movement when part of the body is replaced with an artificial device. Muscle synergies are widely accepted as a biologically plausible interpretation of the neural dynamics between the CNS and the muscular system. Yet the sensorineural dynamics of environmental feedback to the CNS has not been investigated in detail. In this study, we address this issue by exploring the concept of sensory synergy. In contrast to muscle synergy, we hypothesize that sensory synergy plays an essential role in integrating the overall environmental inputs to provide low-dimensional information to the CNS. We assume that sensor synergy and muscle synergy communicate using these low-dimensional signals. To examine our hypothesis, we conducted posture control experiments involving lateral disturbance with 9 healthy participants. Proprioceptive information represented by the changes on muscle lengths were estimated by using the musculoskeletal model analysis software SIMM. Changes on muscles lengths were then used to compute sensory synergies. The experimental results indicate that the environmental inputs were translated into the two dimensional signals and used to move the upper limb to the desired position immediately after the lateral disturbance. Participants who showed high skill in posture control were found to be likely to have a strong correlation between sensory and muscle signaling as well as high coordination between the utilized sensory synergies. These results suggest the importance of integrating environmental inputs into suitable low-dimensional signals before providing them to the CNS. This mechanism should be essential when designing the prosthesis’ sensory system to make the controller simpler

Author(s): Alnajjar, Fady and Itkonen, Matti and Berenz, Vincent and Tournier, Maxime and Nagai, Chikara and Shimoda, Shingo
Journal: Frontiers in Neuroscience
Volume: 8
Pages: 436
Year: 2015

Department(s): Autonomous Motion
Bibtex Type: Article (article)

DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2014.00436


  title = {Sensory synergy as environmental input integration},
  author = {Alnajjar, Fady and Itkonen, Matti and Berenz, Vincent and Tournier, Maxime and Nagai, Chikara and Shimoda, Shingo},
  journal = {Frontiers in Neuroscience},
  volume = {8},
  pages = {436},
  year = {2015},
  url = {}