Understanding muscle function during perturbed in vivo locomotion using a muscle avatar approach

Nicole Rice, Caitlin M. Bemis, Monica A. Daley, Kiisa Nishikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The work loop technique has provided key insights into in vivo muscle work and power during steady locomotion. However, for many animals and muscles, ex vivo experiments are not feasible. In addition, purely sinusoidal strain trajectories lack variations in strain rate that result from variable loading during locomotion. Therefore, it is useful to develop an 'avatar' approach in which in vivo strain and activation patterns from one muscle are replicated in ex vivo experiments on a readily available muscle from an established animal model. In the present study, we used mouse extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles in ex vivo experiments to investigate in vivo mechanics of the guinea fowl lateral gastrocnemius (LG) muscle during unsteady running on a treadmill with obstacle perturbations. In vivo strain trajectories from strides down from obstacle to treadmill, up from treadmill to obstacle, strides with no obstacle and sinusoidal strain trajectories at the same amplitude and frequency were used as inputs in work loop experiments. As expected, EDL forces produced with in vivo strain trajectories were more similar to in vivo LG forces (R2=0.58-0.94) than were forces produced with the sinusoidal trajectory (average R2=0.045). Given the same stimulation, in vivo strain trajectories produced work loops that showed a shift in function from more positive work during strides up from treadmill to obstacle to less positive work in strides down from obstacle to treadmill. Stimulation, strain trajectory and their interaction had significant effects on all work loop variables, with the interaction having the largest effect on peak force and work per cycle. These results support the theory that muscle is an active material whose viscoelastic properties are tuned by activation, and which produces forces in response to deformations of length associated with time-varying loads.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb244721
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Guinea fowl
  • Muscle fascicle strain
  • Muscle mechanics
  • Viscoelastic properties
  • Work loop

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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