Human Postural Balance

Collaborators: John Doyle, Joel Burdick

Human postural balance is the mechanism that makes sure a person can stand, walk, or perform tasks without falling down all the times. A study in this area is not only of interest to biologists, but it is also useful for designing a better neuro-prosthesis to assist people with spinal cord injuries in regaining their walking and standing abilities.

There are three systems that play a role in human posture balancing - the vestibular system, vision, and proprioception. Each of them has its own delay when receiving and disseminating information across a human body. Each of them receives different types of information and processes the information in different ways. Essentially, these three systems combined can be thought as a collection of controllers, actuators, and sensors that are distributed across a human body. Hence, our human nervous system is a distributed system.

My work focuses on understanding the interaction between these three systems for balancing through the lens of control engineering. I would like to formulate a control framework that resembles human balance control. One current thought is to model the nervous system as a distributed system that implements some form of decentralized control that also takes into account the delay pattern of the nervous network. This work is still in progress.