Author(s): Vaughan CL
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Abstract In this paper six theories of bipedal walking, and the evidence in support of the theories, are reviewed. They include: evolution, minimising energy consumption, maturation in children, central pattern generators, linking control and effect, and robots on two legs. Specifically, the six theories posit that: (1) bipedalism is the fundamental evolutionary adaptation that sets hominids--and therefore humans--apart from other primates; (2) locomotion is the translation of the centre of gravity along a pathway requiring the least expenditure of energy; (3) when a young child takes its first few halting steps, his or her biomechanical strategy is to minimise the risk of falling; (4) a dedicated network of interneurons in the spinal cord generates the rhythm and cyclic pattern of electromyographic signals that give rise to bipedal gait; (5) bipedal locomotion is generated through global entrainment of the neural system on the one hand, and the musculoskeletal system plus environment on the other; and (6) powered dynamic gait in a bipedal robot can be realised only through a strategy which is based on stability and real-time feedback control. The published record suggests that each of the theories has some measure of support. However, it is important to note that there are other important theories of locomotion which have not been covered in this review. Despite such omissions, this odyssey has explored the wide spectrum of bipedal walking, from its origins through to the integration of the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems.
This article was published in J Biomech
and referenced in Journal of Novel Physiotherapies