Edited by: Daniel Ferris
An article collection in Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
In June 2016, 148 biologists, engineers, clinicians, kinesiologists, neuroscientists, and physiologists gathered in Sterling, OH, at the Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center. They were there to attend a scientific meeting: Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement 2016. The meeting brought together scientists from disparate backgrounds that had a common interest in the movement of humans and other animals. Twenty years prior, in 1996, the first Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement meeting was held at the same location with 116 attendees from a range of fields. The original conference had a profound effect on many of the attendees, especially graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The 1996 meeting had a small number of attendees in an isolated location, giving attendees an opportunity to have extended discussions with the successful scientists invited to speak in the single track sessions. The 2016 meeting had a similar goal and format. The size of the meeting was kept small and the location was the same. Attendees had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, and had no easy access to escape the conference location. It made for an ideal setting for rich scientific discourse.
Although there are many scientific conferences that include content related to human and animal movement, they generally collect a relatively homogeneous group of scientists. The comparative biologists often attend the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Neuroscientists usually prioritize attending the annual meetings of the Society for Neuroscience or the Society for the Neural Control of Movement. Roboticists aim to present their work at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems or the International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Engineers focusing on human-machine interactions for rehabilitation like to attend the International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics. Biomechanists studying human movement have the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics. In a similar manner, other conferences held by the International Society for Posture and Gait Research, the Biomedical Engineering Society, or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers all tend to have their own subset of scientists as regular attendees. These meetings are not completely exclusive from each other in regards to attendees, but there is generally not as much large scale crossover and communication between the meetings as might be desirable.
At Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement 2016, the scientific committee had explicitly invited speakers from a wide range of departments and educational backgrounds to encourage discussion across disciplines. Based on feedback from the attendees, the 2016 meeting was a resounding success, just as the 1996 meeting had been. For the 2016 agenda, there were nine different panels of invited speakers, covering topics related to muscle, skeletal systems, locomotion, reaching, motor adaptation, computer modeling and simulation, and rehabilitation robotics. All of the invited speakers and panels were subsequently invited to submit a review paper related to their panel topics to this special thematic series, Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement. The intent was to assemble some of the collective knowledge so that others not in attendance at the meeting could benefit from the presentations, discussion, and sometimes consensus that was developed by the attendees.
The papers that follow will hopefully give some insight on the presentations that occurred at the 2016 meeting. Nordin, Rymer, Biewener, Schwartz, Chen, and Horak tackled the question of what have we learned in the 20 years since the last Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement meeting in 1996 (Nordin et al. 2017). Lieber, Roberts, Blemker, Lee, and Herzog provided an overview of our current understanding of muscle mechanics, energetics, and plasticity (Lieber et al. 2017). Herzog then followed this overview up with a more in depth analysis of the questions, problems and possible solutions for skeletal muscle research (Herzog 2017). An often overlooked aspect of human and animal movement is the skeletal structure that enables muscle to create body movement in vertebrates. Gavelli, Brainerd, Troy, Shefelbine, and Ronsky discuss how the skeletal structure provides the framework and limitation in health and disease (Gavelli et al. 2018). Valero-Cuevas and Santello focused their contribution on biological and robotic grasp and manipulation (Valero-Cuevas and Santello 2017). Last, but not least, Seidler and Carson offer their take on the neurocognitive mechanisms and individual differences related to sensorimotor learning (Seidler and Carson 2017). While these papers do not fully cover all the material presented and discussed at the meeting, I hope they provide enough of an inspiration so that the meeting is held again in 2036 and attended by a new wave of scientists and engineers.
This collection of articles has not been sponsored and articles have undergone the journal's standard peer-review process overseen by the Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editors. The Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editors declare no competing interests.