Christopher T. Richards and Enrico A. Eberhard
Muscle force-length dynamics are governed by intrinsic contractile properties, motor stimulation and mechanical load. Although intrinsic properties are well-characterised, physiologists lack in vitro instrumentation accounting for combined effects of limb inertia, musculoskeletal architecture and contractile dynamics. We introduce in vitro virtual-reality (in vitro-VR) which enables in vitro muscle tissue to drive a musculoskeletal jumping simulation. In hardware, muscle force from a frog plantaris was transmitted to a software model where joint torques, inertia and ground reaction forces were computed to advance the simulation at 1 kHz. To close the loop, simulated muscle strain was returned to update in vitro length. We manipulated 1) stimulation timing and, 2) the virtual muscle’s anatomical origin. This influenced interactions among muscular, inertial, gravitational and contact forces dictating limb kinematics and jump performance. We propose that in vitro-VR can be used to illustrate how neuromuscular control and musculoskeletal anatomy influence muscle dynamics and biomechanical performance.